12 August 2014 Wendy and Susan
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 Post office and the Co op Wendy and Susan come for lunch
Scrabble: I win, but gets under just 400. perhaps Mary will win tomorrow.
100 Games: Mary wins 52 John 38 Mary Average score 346 John 340
Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw – obituary
Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw was an eminent mathematician who overcame childhood deafness, fell in love over a slide rule, and became an education adviser to Margaret Thatcher
Kathleen Ollerenshaw with Margaret Thatcher Photo: Manchester Evening News Syndication
11:23AM BST 12 Aug 2014
Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw, who has died aged 101, was one of Britain’s most eminent mathematicians, an influential educationist and a former lord mayor of Manchester, where she led the city council’s Conservative group. She achieved all this, and more, despite being almost totally deaf from the age of eight until she acquired an effective hearing aid at 37.
Dame Kathleen — who published her autobiography at 93 — wrote that maths was “the one subject in which I was at no disadvantage. Nearly all equations are found in textbooks or shown on the blackboard as the teacher speaks. Mathematics is a way of thinking. It requires no tools or instruments or laboratories. It may be convenient to have a pen and paper, a ruler and a compass, but it is not essential: Archimedes managed very well with a stretch of smooth sand and a stick.”
An Oxford hockey blue and champion skater in her youth, she was also a keen astronomer — Lancaster University named its observatory after her.
As an adviser to Margaret Thatcher , she was a trenchant supporter of independent schools . Her warnings in the 1970s about falling standards in state schools were taken up by James Callaghan when he launched his “great debate” on the issue.
Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw
Throughout her career she was supported by her husband, Robert Ollerenshaw, whom she had met at school when she was six. In the sixth form Robert gave her his slide rule: “He had made a leather case for it and I counted this as the mark of true love.” They married in 1939 and had two children, both of whom she outlived. Robert Ollerenshaw became a distinguished military surgeon before going into academia .
Kathleen Mary Timpson was born on October 1 1912, a granddaughter of the founder of Timpson Shoes . In 1921 a viral infection and inherited otosclerosis left her almost deaf, and she learned to lip-read. At St Leonard’s School, St Andrews, she was told she could not take maths in the sixth form as she had not attended applied maths classes; she threatened to leave, then achieved outstanding grades.
Having spent a year studying higher algebra and geometry with JM Child at Manchester University, Kathleen won a scholarship to Somerville College, Oxford, graduating in 1934 .
In 1937 she went to the Shirley Institute, which undertook research for the cotton industry, but soon met the German mathematician Kurt Mahler, who had come to Manchester University. He mentioned an unsolved problem on critical lattices, an aspect of number theory and geometry, and she solved it within days. Mahler suggested she return to Oxford for a DPhil; she produced five original papers which qualified her without the need to submit a thesis. After Robert was demobilised, she lectured at Manchester University.
Kathleen Ollerenshaw was co-opted on to Manchester education committee in 1954, and two years later elected a councillor, serving almost continuously until 1980. After telling the National Council of Women of the poor state of Manchester’s older schools, she was asked for a detailed report, which found that 750,000 British children used schools built before 1870; this led to the government releasing extra funds for school buildings. In 1958 she published a Conservative Political Centre pamphlet, Education for Girls, which insisted on more than “a diluted or merely modified version of the traditional education provided for boys”. Girls, she wrote, must be educated for work as well as marriage, with greater encouragement to study maths and sciences. She became chairman of Manchester’s education committee when the Conservatives took control in 1967, serving for three years before Labour regained it. She was appointed DBE in 1971.
When Stanford University published research showing that attainment in maths by Japanese children was far higher than elsewhere, Kathleen Ollerenshaw persuaded the British Council to send her to Japan to ascertain why. She found class sizes much larger than in Britain, but a high standard of discipline and an expectation of success.
Dame Kathleen was Manchester’s lord mayor in 1975-76, and during her term of office wrote a children’s book, The Lord Mayor’s Party, as well as First Citizen, in which she told how she would play Frisbee with her secretary in the main hall . She dispensed with the lord mayor’s dining room, because “My husband and I have no time for entertaining”. She led the council’s Conservative opposition from 1977 to 1979 .
In 1978 she succeeded the Duke of Edinburgh as president of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications, which she had helped found. Under her leadership it conducted the first national tests in basic maths, and she was appalled by the results: fewer than nine per cent of children obtained anywhere near full marks on an extremely simple paper, and 15-year-olds in inner London were a year behind those in Cleveland.
One of the first mathematicians to solve the Rubik’s Cube (her efforts resulted in her having to undergo an operation for “cubist’s thumb”), Dame Kathleen published her Rubik’s Cube paper in 1980. To solve the puzzle in 80 moves, she said, you did the bottom face first, then the top corners, then the middle slice edges and finally the top edges.
She went on to study the theory of magic squares — in which the numbers 1 to 16 are arranged in a 4×4 array so that the sum of each row, each column and the two diagonals add to the same. With the cosmologist Herman Bondi she verified 17th-century calculations that there were exactly 800 different such squares, and in 2006 she published Constructing Magic Squares of Arbitrarily Large Size.
In 2004 Dame Kathleen brought out a memoir, To Talk of Many Things. In 2008, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies dedicated his Naxos Quartet No 9 to her.
Among her many posts, Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw was a Pro-Chancellor of Salford and Lancaster Universities; and chairman of the courts of the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester College of Commerce and its successor, Manchester Polytechnic, and Manchester University.
She was president of Manchester Statistical Society and Manchester Technology Association; vice-president of Manchester Astronomical Society and of the British Association for Commercial and Industrial Education and the City and Guilds; and chairman of the Association of Governing Bodies of Girls’ Public Schools and the St John Ambulance Council for Greater Manchester. She was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant for Greater Manchester in 1987.
Robert Ollerenshaw died in 1986, and both their children predeceased her.
Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw, born October 1 1912, died August 10 2014
The Council for the Mathematical Sciences, which represents the learned societies for mathematics in the UK, (CMS) takes issue with most of Simon Jenkins’s article (The maths mechanics, 8 August). But at this time of the year, when young people are concerned about A-level choices and university options, his statements about the employability of mathematicians have the potential to cause the greatest damage.
Jenkins uses the latest data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa) to argue that employment prospects for mathematicians are worse than those for, eg, historians. While it is true that 9% of mathematicians were unemployed six months after graduating compared with 7% of historians, the tables are turned in the longer term. The same annual Hesa reports used by Jenkins show that three years later in their careers:
(a) 2.3% of mathematicians were assumed unemployed compared to 3.8% of the historians;
(b) 75% of mathematicians thought their degree was good value for money, and 63% of historians thought theirs was;
(c) more than half the mathematicians in employment were earning more than £27,500, while this was true of only a quarter of the historians (92% of mathematicians were classified as being in “professional” employment compared with 77% of historians).
We leave it to your readers to do the maths.
Professor Paul Glendinning
University of Manchester, writing on behalf of the CMS
• While referring to weak computer science graduates as unemployable, Simon Jenkins seems to think that all science and engineering graduates are worthless. Specifically, he calls them inarticulate. Not able to “speak well, write clearly”. He has a point. There is a problem. Too many weak students are recruited to these disciplines. I agree with him that education in this country needs a radical restructuring. But it’s not that we should be teaching weak science students to be more articulate, it’s that education in schools should be made more liberal. Maybe then the brighter students who are currently attracted to arts and humanities would find themselves drawn towards science and engineering. Then industry would get what it apparently wants, broad knowledge, specific skills and an articulate workforce.
• The misfit is with the economics, not the science. Two-thirds of new jobs are in services, and that is our folly; we need to produce the goods we use. Plessey used to lead the world in the semiconductor industry. We led the world with nuclear reactors. We had highly experienced engineers and scientists.
Britain needs to get back to doing productive jobs and rely less on services, the volatile markets and the City for its profits. A sound economy is what will avert another crash in the markets. Teaching has changed. Read Science Inside the Black Box for insight into how innovative teachers are improving the attainment of all. There are no productive jobs for the scientists.
St Andrews, Fife
• My impression from reading Simon Jenkins’s article is that he has something of an inferiority complex with regard to science and maths. CP Snow talked about the two cultures of science and the arts. This was always a misunderstanding, as the culture of those who have studied science generally includes the arts – often as notable practitioners. This is rarely the case the other way round.
Making the effort to understand science and maths leads to an appreciation of the counterintuitive rather than the merely intuitive. This requires truly creative and imaginative thought, even for those of us who are not innovative geniuses.
• Simon Jenkins argues for a broader education than at present found in our schools. His final sentence, however – “But try telling a British school that etiquette is more use than algebra” – is aimed at the wrong target. Tell the Department for Education, tell Ofsted.
Teachers would love the chance to provide the education their pupils need. In a Maidstone secondary modern school back in the 70s, we provided one day a week work experience for year 11, and took year 10 off timetable one day a week to do drama, music, adventure courses and initiative-developing schemes. One lesson a week each of careers education, social education and religious education is now regularly squeezed into one lesson. These courses prepared pupils for the world outside, as Jenkins wants.
If we are to prepare pupils for the world of work, we need to do so much more than the narrow curriculum envisaged by Michael Gove. This does not mean we should be doing industry’s job for them. Companies love to talk about a skills deficit, but schools need to be given the opportunity to train the mind, to encourage individual initiative, to facilitate problem-solving skills, even good manners.
There was a time when countries from the far east would come to this country to learn from our primary schools. Schools are trying their best to provide a broad-based curriculum with a skills approach but the system is against them. A Japanese teacher would learn little from this country today.
• Once again, Simon Jenkins points out the folly of government education policies. As he says, “What could be more important to young people than learning to live at peace with themselves and others.” Yet, ever since the Education Reform Act of 1988, schools have been bedevilled by inspections, league tables, restrictive curricula and a competitive focus on test and examination results.
Politicians rarely stop to reflect on what education is – or should be. At the risk of engaging in professorial pomposity, I offer this description of education. First: education is the experience and nurture of personal and social development towards worthwhile living. Second: education is the acquisition, creation, development, transmission, conservation, discovery and renewal of worthwhile culture. Third: education is the acquisition, development, transmission, conservation, discovery, and renewal of skills for worthwhile survival. I call it a “framework definition” because it leaves teachers and local communities to determine what is “worthwhile”.
My first part is exactly what Jenkins refers to and should be in the forefront of any school’s thinking. He cites the expressed concerns of industry about the skills of school leavers, and it would seem that it is personal skills that are criticised. Schools should have the time and freedom to ensure that their leavers are well-balanced individuals ready to contribute to and enjoy the wellbeing of their world, while industry should provide training in any specific skills needed by their workforce.
The second part is about the culture that should provide a meaningful background to the forthcoming lives of pupils as citizens engaged in work and play, in family life and in the pursuit of individual interests – hobbies as they were once called.
The third part is a sombre reminder that we live on a fragile planet and that mankind’s survival depends upon taking good care of it.
Sadly, our education system is a long way from this ideal.
Professor Michael Bassey
Author of Education for the Inevitable
I was lucky enough to chair at least three press conferences for Robin Williams (Report, 12 August) when he came to London for the launch of films such as Mrs Doubtfire and Hook. After just one question, though, he was usually off and running on an inspired stint of standup before a group of my fellow journalists who were only too happy to let him riff brilliantly if ever more vaguely on the subject for which we were all officially gathered. It was like having a front-row seat at an exclusive comedy club. Trouble is, his fellow panellists – the likes of Dustin Hoffman, Chris Columbus and Steven Spielberg – were generally blitzed into a stunned if mostly admiring silence as this comic genius worked the room.
Little Marlow, Buckinghamshire
• The resignation of Sayeeda Warsi on a matter of principle was profoundly disorientating. So the fact that she’s been followed through the exit door by Mark Simmonds (Report, 12 August), aggrieved that he can’t make ends meet on his generous expenses, is a reassuring return to Tory normality.
Wallsend, North Tyneside
• Our three garden nest boxes are each producing their third consecutive broods of sparrows. Together then with our feeding table, we think we’ve provided full board and lodgings for upwards of 30 new sparrows this year.
• I have always prided myself on not being able to do any sport whatsoever. I’m dismayed to see that sudoku is “the most all-encompassing sport in the world” (Report, 12 August). As I always turn to the back page of G2 first and throw away the sport supplement unread, what should I do? Order a tracksuit?
• Here in Cornwall we refer to the rest of the UK as “up country” – indicating some otherworldly, slightly mysterious place that few have reached and from where even fewer return (Letters, 9 August). The classic train announcement crawling through eastern Cornwall towards Paddington (nearly five hours away at the best of times) was “we apologise for the delay in this service; it’s caused by some signalling problems in England”. And a few years ago, Truro City supporters at a pre-season friendly in Plymouth sang about “you dirty northern bastards” – which did seem to leave the Argyle fans a little confused.
• I have shared my life with several cats over the years and all of them knew the name of the founder of the Chinese Communist party (Letters, 1 August).
Nigel Osborne will no longer buy the Guardian (Letters, 12 August); others have written to condemn the printing of the advert supported by Elie Wiesel as an increasingly pro-Israel bias of your editorial policy; as mendacious; and a travesty of free speech. From all this, one could conclude they disagree with the content, which therefore they state should not be published. Who are these thought police? Are they the same ones who urge the Tricycle Theatre to boycott Jewish films? And urge British universities to boycott Israeli academics? So much for free speech. Was it not Voltaire who said “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it?” There is much in the Guardian’s coverage of the Israeli-Gaza conflict with which I disagree, but that has not stopped me from continuing to buy it and to read articles like that by Karma Nabulsi (Out of the carnage a new spirit, 12 August).
Totland Bay, Isle of Wight
I’m glad you printed the advert because I want to know what these people are saying and I don’t want them to be censored. • I say, take heart to the Guardian reader who is giving up the paper after 25 years. My reaction was quite the opposite, although of course I was similarly appalled by the nature of this propaganda. However, we need to know the mindset of Israel and this advertisement gave that in very bleak detail. The Israeli people must indeed be in a dark place if they believe that Elie Wiesel sets forth a just cause.
I’m glad you printed the advert because I want to know what these people are saying and I don’t want them to be censored. • While revolted by the ad’s specious posturing, I was not unhappy for the Guardian to publish it. I credit the Guardian’s readers with enough nous to see through it. Besides, it acts as a donation from This World to help the finances of the free media – and incidentally simply strengthens readers’ disgust with the worst aspects of fundamental Zionism.
I’m glad you printed the advert because I want to know what these people are saying and I don’t want them to be censored. • One question intrigues me. Do those who write to the Guardian stating they will never buy another copy, buy one the next day to see if their letter has been published?
• I began my friendship with you in 1982, the same year I went to a kibbutz and discovered the truth about Israel. You taught me about politics and culture. You were there for my dad when he died and for my mum when she was in prison. Each week I invest £12.30 in you. But no longer. What you have done in carrying Elie Wiesel’s ad is appalling. I’m unfriending you and urging all those I know to do the same until you apologise.
I’m glad you printed the advert because I want to know what these people are saying and I don’t want them to be censored. • It’s strange to see your correspondents condemning the Guardian. The ad, trenchantly critical of Hamas though it is, does not contain a word of hate speech directed against Palestinian people or against Arabs or Muslims in general; how, then, is it illegitimate for the Guardian to run it? Part of the process of resolving any long-term problem is to see the world for what it is, not as those who yell loudest would wish us to see it. It is clear that Hamas is not a political movement pure and simple, nor is it a liberationist group – it is a terrorist organisation, every bit as much as the IRA, the Lord’s Resistance Army or the Stern Gang. What is more, it is a group that has convinced its supporters that random military attacks against civilian targets in Israel are somehow a great idea, even though they are guaranteed to produce a violent over-reaction from Israel. This is immorality and stupidity of the first order – it needs to be recognised in plain sight and resolutely opposed.
Bedale, North Yorkshire
I’m glad you printed the advert because I want to know what these people are saying and I don’t want them to be censored. • You often print messages from governments or organisations. I never believe what they are telling me. Does anyone?
I was delighted to read the article by Shane Hickey (Changing lives: The ‘Electronic Couple’ who gave power of hearing to the deaf, 11 August) about cochlear implants and my friends the Hochmairs, whom I and others involved in the field of cochlear implantation have known since their Vienna days, as well as those scientists in Paris, California and Australia who worked around the same time developing the original versions of the other currently available brands of cochlear implant.
You mention the fact that health systems in the EU, unlike those in Latin America and south-east Asia, allow children to receive a cochlear implant early in life, ideally before their first birthday, if they have been born severely deaf. This is correct for most EU countries and the UK, as described in a supplement published last year by the journal I edit, Cochlear Implants International. Another fact also mentioned in this supplement was that while in these countries the state-financed health systems have allowed around 95% of children who will benefit from a cochlear implant to receive one, the comparable figure for the United States is a mere 50%.
In the 1980s, when the first commercially available cochlear implant, made by Nucleus in Australia, became available, these devices were not funded by the NHS. A group of us, with the very effective assistance of the late Jack Ashley MP (Lord Ashley of Stoke), formed the British Cochlear Implant Group, whose initial target was to persuade the government of the day that cochlear implants should be funded by the NHS. By the early 1990s this aim had been achieved.
Thirty years later, a comparable organisation, the American Cochlear Implant Alliance, has now been formed in the US, with a similar purpose. It seems ironic that the world’s richest nation still has a health system that denies cochlear implants to some 50% of those children who would benefit from them.
John Graham FRCS
Nine protesters last week occupied an arms factory based in Staffordshire and it was closed down for two days. The factory is owned by Elbit Systems, Israel’s biggest arms company (Report, 6 August). The drone components they make are allegedly used by the Israeli military to assault Palestinians in Gaza. This factory symbolises how strongly the UK is linked to Israel’s military. Over £190m of UK arms have been exported to Israel over the past five years. These nine protesters, who drew attention to UK complicity with Israeli violations of international law, are being charged with aggravated trespass for stopping this “lawful” factory operating. But selling these weapons to Israel is what is criminal here.
All charges against the protesters should be dropped and a two-way military embargo should be imposed on Israel immediately.
Alice Walker, Ahdaf Soueif, Miranda Pennell, Breyten Breytenbach, John Pilger, Miriam Margolyes, Nick Cave, Noam Chomsky, Richard Falk, Victoria Brittain
We are writing to express our opposition to Peter Fahy’s suggestion that police should have greater access to confidential medical records, irrespective of a patient’s own wishes (Report, 11 August). The confidentiality of medical records, and the trust that it engenders, is a cornerstone of the doctor-patient relationship. Vulnerable people may have particular concerns about the confidentiality of their health information, and weakening their rights here may deter them from seeking vital medical support.
Medical professionals acting in accordance with Sir Peter Fahy’s beliefs would also face potential action by the General Medical Council for breaching confidentiality. As doctors working in police custody we have “dual responsibility” in terms of our ethical responsibilities. The duty owed to the criminal justice system requires us to disclose findings that assist the police in their investigation, such as relevant injuries, and to ensure that custody staff have sufficient information to provide safe care for detainees. Our duty to the detainee or patient is to protect the confidentiality of information that has no relevance to the reason for arrest. This information can be provided on the basis of the patient’s informed consent or a court direction.
We agree that the police detainee population is characterised by a high level of vulnerability, mental illness and substance abuse. The British Medical Association and the Faculty of Forensic and Legal Medicine is working with NHS England to improve integration of medical databases, so that relevant healthcare workers can access sensitive information, and divert patients detained in custody to appropriate treatment and support without the need to drive a coach and horses through their rights to a confidential health service.
Dr Rachael Pickering Co-chair, Forensic Medicine Committee, BMA, Dr Victoria Evans President, Faculty of Forensic and Legal Medicine, Royal College of Physicians of London, Dr Michael Wilks Vice-president, BMA
It was refreshing to hear a farmer expressing the sensible view that farms should be used for producing food (Report, 7 August). In my part of Essex, if they can’t sell land for redevelopment, farmers are busy sowing such fine edible crops as turf and solar power. Custodians of the countryside.
• The ruddy duck must not live because it is non-indigenous and infecting the “purity” of the native white-headed duck – which presumably doesn’t care that its progeny is not “pure” (Shooters set their sights on UK’s last remaining ruddy ducks, 9 August). Meanwhile the human species causes devastation throughout this once diverse planet. And surely bird lovers like nothing better than when a migrating non-indigenous bird flies off course and lands somewhere in the UK.
• Zoe Williams is critical of conflating faith and community (Best foot forward as the godless put their faith in soles rather than souls, 9 August): quite right. However, she, like many others, conflates secularism, humanism and atheism. They are different, and people cross “the lines” in various ways. It is possible to be religious and want a secular state; to be an atheist but not a humanist; to be a Christian humanist etc.
• Louise Osborne and Maev Kennedy trace the battle for beach or poolside space back to a Carling Black Label advert in 1993 (Wake-up call for Brits as Germans refuse to take towel jibes lying down, 9 August). The Germans, albeit with the help of a British advertising agency, got there about 10 years earlier: “If you want to get on the beach before the Germans, you’d better buy an Audi 100!” (Report, 18 September).
• What a pity Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson will not be fighting for the same seat in the general election (Farage on Ukip shortlist for South Thanet, 9 August) – and that Gilbert and Sullivan are not around to make a comic opera out of it.
I was disappointed to read that the Tory minister Mark Simmonds is quitting the Commons because the expenses system is “too meagre” for him to afford London rents.
Simmonds is able to claim £20,000 a year for rent, plus an additional £2,425 for each child (he has three). This works out at a rental budget of £524 per week, not counting his £120,000 ministerial salary, the £25,000 he pays his wife to be his part-time secretary or his second jobs such as the chairmanship of chartered surveyors Mortlock Simmonds.
As a solution, I wondered if Simmonds had considered the delights of moving to Brent? We’re far from the cheapest borough, but a three-bedroom flat can still just about be found for £400-£500 a week in areas like Kensal Green – a hugely diverse community where he could enjoy delicious cuisine from the four corners of the world (perhaps that’s why his government sent UKBA guards to check passports at the Tube station and drove “Go Home” vans through the streets).
As a local councillor I’ve written to Mr Simmonds offering to show him around the area. Of course he would have to embark on a 45-minute commute to Westminster every day, but I wonder if sharing the experiences of those who pay his wages might help him become less out of touch.
Cllr Matt Kelcher
(Labour, Kensal Green Ward)
London Borough of Brent
Mark Simmonds resigns. Can’t “afford” to live in London with his family.
I wonder if MPs who think they are having such a hard financial time ever wonder how the waiters, bar attendants, cleaners, handymen, secretaries and other staff who keep the Palace of Westminster going manage to have a life, on far less pay then the average MP with all their extra directorships.
If Mark Simmonds thinks his life, as an MP, is intolerable he obviously has no idea what so many others have to put up with. He sounds like a spoilt brat.
Red-hunter of old Fleet Street
Your celebration of the late Chapman Pincher in both a column and on the Obituary page (7 August) should not be allowed to slip by unchallenged.
He certainly broke some stories that Labour governments in particular found embarrassing, but he was far from a courageous “lone wolf”.
The late E P Thompson was much closer to the truth when, in Writing by Candlelight, he described Pincher’s columns as “a kind of official urinal” in which various security establishment figures “stand patiently leaking in the public interest”.
That “public interest” was a particular, nastily partisan, right-wing, often institutionally self-interested view which saw “Reds” everywhere and never met a weapon it didn’t like.
It also, as your obituarist admits, led him to suppress stories when he saw fit, and print others he knew to be false. He did not deserve to be honoured by those who believe in honest journalism.
The obituaries of Chapman Pincher have tended, without endorsing all his charges of Communist subversion in the Civil Service and Labour Party, to give him a high reputation. There should be more regard for the irresponsibility with which he suggested wider guilt.
His stress on Communist fellow travellers being reliable voters for Harold Wilson, made clear intimations of worse. On one strange occasion, I got full-blast his undeclared and raging view of Wilson. In 1977, I had just joined the Daily Express when, in a corridor, an angry Harry Pincher stopped me, unknown to him and unprovoking, to proclaim of the Prime Minister: “I will get that little man if it is the last thing I do.”
Yet he was to be heard recently saying what a splendid, delightful good thing dear old Harold had been. Doubtless both positions were sincerely, if severally, taken. However they mark the man readily holding both as a febrile personality not to be taken as seriously as he has been.
Thormanby, North Yorkshire
Keep the UK family together
Your editorial of 7 August calls on people across the UK to make their voices heard before Scots vote in their referendum next month. Unless those who support the Union outside Scotland speak up, we could face a situation in which fewer than 2 million Scots voting Yes cause the dismemberment of the UK, with a population of 63 million.
In fact, grassroots campaigns are now emerging to give a say to those who want to keep the Union. Independent, non-political projects such as To Scotland With Love, Let’s Stay Together, and Hands Across the Border are providing those without votes the chance to show that they care about the UK family staying together.
Ed Miliband has made a “pledge” that there will be no formal currency union with Scotland in the event of a Yes vote in the independence referendum. Mr Miliband and his Unionist colleagues should have the decency to explain the outcome of this to the up to 120,000 employees in the rest of the UK who would be set to lose their jobs as a result of transaction costs between the remaining UK and an independent Scotland.
In addition, the loss of oil and gas and whisky revenues on the UK’s balance of payments would have a major impact on the pound.
A formal currency union is the only logical solution benefiting both Scotland and the rest of the UK.
Not all Londoners love Boris
J Stanley from Dunfermline (letter, 9 August) made many good points about London’s mayor, but highlighted again some readers’ misunderstanding of our democratic process.
Not all Londoners voted for Boris Johnson, nor do we all think he has done much for London. Quite the opposite, in fact: so the suggestion that Boris has “the full acquiescence of … the people of London” is not something that I, as a Londoner, recognise. I too am bewildered by his apparent popularity and puzzled by his positive press coverage.
(Perhaps The Independent could be less indulgent towards him, particularly given his lack of any obvious policies or achievements other than self-advancement?)
Similarly, as many readers have pointed out in the context of Scottish independence, not all of us in England voted for the current government, but hope for a better outcome next time.
How often does the outcome of our current democratic process have to be explained or justified?
Holding the police to account
You say that the Crown Prosecution Service’s decision that the evidence provided by the Independent Police Complaints Commission was insufficient to bring any prosecutions of police for their part in the death of Habib Ullah “raises serious questions about the willingness of the watchdog to confront officers” (report, 9 August).
Those questions have been asked by families and campaign groups such as Inquest for many years now. The independence of the IPCC has been more a matter of assertion than reality.
But its not just the IPCC. When the CPS opened its local office in Stoke Newington police station in north London, the local paper carried the headline “Singing from the same hymn sheet”.
These compromised and threadbare agencies should be replaced by a truly independent, properly empowered and staffed system to hold properly to account those who are allowed to use violence.
Cut down the noise on trains
I empathise with your correspondents about noise on trains (letters, 8 August). I also seek the seclusion that the quiet coach grants (sometimes).
A while ago, I had found a table seat, by a window, bliss. Next, a youth sat opposite and plugged head phones into his ears, which leaked the trish-trash noise. I gestured to turn it down, he replied with a two-finger gesture.
I had a delve in my briefcase and pulled out a pair of pliers and gestured to cut his wires. He got up and moved on. Nothing like the threat of direct action! Moral: always carry wire cutters with you.
A dozen first-class Attlees, please
The Post Office will issue in October a set of stamps with the heads of British Prime Ministers. One trusts that they can be purchased individually according to one’s political allegiance. Heaven forbid that in order to distinguish one’s correspondence with the face of Attlee one has to buy as many Thatchers.
Antisemitism is increasing in the UK, and it is not only British Jews who are concerned
Sir, Libby Purves’s account of the cancellation of the Jewish Film Festival (“Be indignant, yes, but ditch the days of rage”, Aug 11) would have had far more credibility if she had mentioned the vitriolic antisemitism that has erupted in Britain over recent weeks.
Given the profoundly disturbing chorus of such gems as “Hitler was right” and “kill the Jews” in social media and on many of Britain’s streets, it is underwhelming to be charged with the age-old “Jewish sensitivity” and also accused of a “violent reaction”.
Remarkably, Purves draws a parallel with Oscar Pistorius who is accused of murdering his girlfriend; to my knowledge nobody in the Jewish community has so much as hurled a paper cup during their recent protestations.
I couldn’t agree more that “anger does not heal an angry world” and that “spewing insults” helps nobody. Indeed, the words “vengeful” and “violent” — as directed at those who protested against the Tricycle Theatre — are less than kind. By all means decry the protests — but please, spare a line for at least a token acknowledgment of the terrifying new reality facing the UK’s Jewish community.
Sir, Hugo Rifkind (“Suddenly it feels uncomfortable to be a Jew”, Aug 12) is discovering what many of us have long known: antisemitism in this country and elsewhere (even where there are no Jews) is a constant; the only variable is the impunity with which antisemites feel able to express themselves, and the flavour of the day: political, religious, racial, commercial, anti-Zionist, anti-Israel — on occasions even envy or fear.
Literature and historical scholarship bear eloquent witness. Reading the papers, watching television provides reminders. It is becoming difficult to pretend that all is well.
Sir, So Hugo Rifkind is suddenly feeling uncomfortable to be a Jew. I too am very uncomfortable and have been for some time.
It is not clear whether his discomfort springs from the fear that he will be recognised as somehow responsible (although of course he is not) for Israel’s actions in seeking security for its people, or if he believes there is another way that could be found to counter the years of hostility coming from Hamas whose charter clearly states their aim to wipe Israel off the earth.
Either way, may I, a fellow Jew, welcome him to the real world. I see no good reason why any Jew should be comfortable, nor indeed any other decent human being who is sensitive to the all too many ghastly happenings in our world today.
Sadly, Mr Rifkind, we are in a very uncomfortable world and some very uncomfortable decisions will have to be taken, if we are to act responsibly. The issues requiring such tough decisions will, regrettably, not go away because we choose to be blinkered and take a comfort pill.
Sir, Your report didn’t really do
justice to the alliance between Warwickshire and West Mercia police forces (“Too many chiefs prevent police mergers”, Aug 11). Operational integration and collaboration extend much further and deeper than in other forces. Ours is across all areas of policing, whereas other forces have specific, function-by-function collaborations.
Another issue is answerability to the public. Our two forces cover an area of 3,600 square miles, with more than 1.8 million people, and there is a danger that the police leadership becomes increasingly remote from citizens.
The merger of eight forces into one in Scotland was achieved by ignoring the expressed opinion of the majority, and by setting up a government appointed police authority — thereby effectively abandoning the principle of local democratic accountability.
The 2010 and 2013 spending reviews called for our two forces to save £34 million. These savings have been made while maintaining performance, satisfaction and local accountability. I believe our alliance is an imaginative alternative to simplistically lumping forces together and producing over-large forces with no local identity.
Police and Crime Commissioner,
Sir, Gerald Fitzgerald (letter, Aug 12) misses an important point when calling for a tiny levy on art sales to fund an independent centre for provenance research. Although such a levy might cost only .05 per cent of annual art sales, currently standing at some $60 billion, if effective, such a centre could reduce the supply of works on the market by something like 40 per cent — at least in the view of the late Thomas Hoving, a former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
The art world is very quick on its feet: when calls were made in the 1930s for an independent centre of art restoration research, then director of the National Gallery in London, Kenneth Clark, promptly established a department of conservation science in order, as he later confessed, to “have in the background what purported to be scientific evidence to ‘prove’ that every precaution had been taken”.
Although self-policing may be an unrealistic ambition, governments could help considerably and at little cost by making it a statutory requirement that vendors should disclose all that is known and recorded about the provenance and the restoration treatments of works of art. As things stand, it can be safer to buy a second-hand car than an
Director, ArtWatch UK
Sir, It is all too easy to change a pub’s commercial use, which can then lead to smoother transition for conversion to a home.
A good pub in a village probably increases the value of homes, offices and shops in the vicinity.
Pubs are one of our best tourist attractions; to allow them to go at the current rate is very short sighted.
Tougher planning restrictions on commercial change of use would be a good start.
Sir, The strong winds here have activated the burglar alarm of a nearby parked car. It’s been sounding for two days now. Surely electronics manufacturers can come up with a device that automatically cuts out after an hour or so?
It would be lovely to hear a loud explosion that signalled the end of the constant noise and demise of offending car. The onsite security team say they can do nothing. I’d gladly blow it up myself if it didn’t mean a prison sentence.
SIR – The Government’s proposal to demand “accelerated payment” of inheritance tax is the latest way of making HM Revenue and Customs judge, jury and executioner on all tax matters, coming in the wake of plans to allow a “direct dip” into bank accounts to recover supposed debts.
Our tax system has become so complicated that even HMRC cannot properly administer it, hence the 5.5 million people who were incorrectly taxed last year. The latest proposals attempt to address a problem that exists only because the tax code is so complex.
Instead of adding further complexity and giving HMRC more powers, the Government should simplify the tax code and eliminate the loopholes that have dented public confidence in the system.
It should start by abolishing the immoral and unfair inheritance tax altogether.
Chief Executive, The TaxPayers’ Alliance London SW1
SIR – Jeremy Warner fails to mention one of the most disturbing aspects of immigration: the disastrous effect that the loss of thousands of young and able people must inevitably have on the developing countries of the world.
While there are, of course, many genuine refugees seeking entry to the West, there are probably even more deserters.
I fail to see how the developing countries can make sound economic progress while significant numbers of their people leave.
Off their trolley
SIR – My 93-year-old mother attempted to buy a new shopping trolley from Argos in Crawley last week. Since she is blind, she asked if the staff could kindly assemble it for her. They were prepared to put everything together but not to fix the wheels on, owing to “health and safety”. Because of that, she was unable to buy it.
What on earth did they think she was going to do with this trolley? Stand inside it and roll down the nearest hill?
SIR – David Cable (Letters, August 11) is right to be frustrated by his GP issuing prescriptions for only 28 days’ supply.
There is no absolute bar to GPs issuing prescriptions for whatever time frame they wish. It is possible, however, that Mr Cable’s local clinical commissioning group is offering an incentive payment for the policy to be enforced – another example of the NHS treating its customers as feckless and irresponsible by not trusting them to look after their medication for more than a month at a time.
There is, however, a scheme whereby Mr Cable can ask his GP to issue prescriptions for 12 months. They are deposited with the local pharmacy and he can collect the medicines as they are required.
Dr Robert Walker
Great Clifton, Cumberland
Narrow boat, long face
SIR – My business partner and I operate horse-drawn boat trips on the Montgomery Canal and sponsor a gurning competition at the local canal festival. We have been asked to submit a risk assessment.
Where do we begin?
SIR – As your obituary of Captain Ian Wright mentioned, the Ministry of Defence continues to deny that the early deaths of many of the crew of HMS Diana (in which he served) and the deformities in some of their children are a consequence of exposure to ionising radiation.
That sad fact is, however, only a part of the story. Shamefully, as evidenced in the recent case in the Upper Tribunal before Mr Justice Charles, Britain is the only nuclear power not to acknowledge the exposure of its servicemen to radiation, something which the Isle of Man has had the grace to remedy for its residents.
The MoD maintains its posture despite the promises of successive prime ministers that the government would consider compensation claims if cogent scientific evidence became available. That evidence has long existed, not least in the authoritative study in 2008 by a team led by Dr R E Rowland of the New Zealand Institute of Molecular Biosciences. Using a technique called mFish (multicolour fluorescent in situ hybridisation), which “paints” chromosomes, making breaks and rearrangement visible, the team examined the damage to the chromosomes of 49 New Zealand veterans who had served on board two frigates positioned between 20 and 150 nautical miles upwind of explosions that were part of Britain’s nuclear test programme.
The Rowland study found that, on average, the crew members had three times as many chromosomal aberrations as 50 people who had not taken part in nuclear tests. The MoD steadfastly refuses to commission a similar study to take Dr Rowland’s peer-reviewed work further.
Nuclear test veterans of the Cold War are as deserving of recognition and pensions as those who served in other wars.
Group Capt Andrew Ades RAF (retd)
SIR – If Chris Whitehouse (Letters, August 9) runs a hot iron over his “sandpapery” towels once he has brought them in off the washing line, their fluffiness will return.
Swanton Morley, Norfolk
SIR – What, revered Editor, will you do with the two thistles currently adorning the device above the leading article, should Scotland decide to become independent?
How am I? You really wouldn’t want to know
SIR – After an accident left me with limited mobility, I learnt to be cautious in replying to the apparently solicitous: “How are you getting on?” (Letters, August 9). This was often a prelude to uninvited, interminable accounts of “when I had my operation”.
Therefore, my reply, with as big a smile as I could muster, was always to say that personal health problems were very boring and I did not want to bore anyone with mine.
Unspoken was the determination not to allow anyone to bore me with theirs.
Laytham, East Yorkshire
SIR – My late stepfather’s response was usually: “Another day nearer death.”
SIR – At Grimsby Baptist Church we are encouraged to respond: “Better than I deserve.” This reflects God’s grace, which by definition and experience gives us far more than we could ever merit.
SIR – My father would often reply: “Not much better for your asking, thank you.”
The rate of tree planting across Britain is far below Government targets
6:59AM BST 12 Aug 2014
SIR – Yet another official report, this time from Dr Anna Stephenson and Professor David Mackay, for the Department of Energy and Climate Change, states that burning trees for electricity generation is “less green” than burning coal. It is hardly a surprising conclusion.
Professor Mackay, the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser on Energy, also emphasises that trees are required to absorb the greenhouse gas emissions from this combustion process.
If it was not bad enough to burn trees instead of coal in power stations (and this is not only at Drax), news that the rate of tree-planting and restocking of timber crops across Great Britain is far below government targets is equally alarming. The case for increased tree planting is more compelling than ever.
Executive Director, United Kingdom Forest Products Association
Britain has been rendered militarily ineffective in its response to atrocities committed by the Islamic State
Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing violence from forces loyal to the Islamic State in Sinjar town, get help from a member of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) Photo: REUTERS/Rodi Said
7:00AM BST 12 Aug 2014
SIR – As we tiptoe around the sidelines of potential genocide in Iraq, the Foreign Secretary must be cursing the last defence secretary, who signed off such savage cuts to the front line, thereby rendering Britain militarily ineffective.
Philip Hammond must by now realise that without a clear foreign policy there can be no defined military strategy. Furthermore, however loosely defined, any foreign policy without a “big stick” behind it is unlikely to be effective.
Wg Cdr Jeremy Parr RAF (retd)
SIR – As a British Muslim I must express horror and condemnation of the atrocities committed by the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.
In light of the chaos we are witnessing, is there anyone left with the audacity to defend the intervention policies of America in Iraq, Libya and Syria? America claimed that it was intervening to promote democracy and to combat extremism. Instead it has created the environment, just as it did in Afghanistan, for these extremists to sprout and flourish, when previously they were non-existent.
S W Hussain
Bradford, West Yorkshire
SIR – With terrible events unfolding in Iraq, is it not time also to go after the paymasters of the Islamic State? It would need leaders with backbone, but if you cut off the flow of money and equipment to the Islamic State, the violence would stop.
SIR – I applaud the involvement of Britain in delivering humanitarian aid to Iraq. I am a simple soul, but may I just ask why representatives from the United Nations are not being sent in? Surely there should be a dedicated team that can drop aid into troublesome regions.
Why do we as a nation seem to lead these initiatives? I would like to think that we are doing this for the best of reasons, and not because our leaders want to keep us on the world stage.
SIR – The Islamic State is the most dangerous development of recent times.
Reluctant as Western political leaders are to get mired in this tragic situation, the only answer is serious military engagement to eliminate the IS, in order to avoid worse consequences later.
SIR – I heard a sad-sounding Archbishop of Canterbury on the radio on Sunday, bemoaning the way everyone says “Something must be done”, but without saying what. I have a suggestion for him: follow the example of King George VI and call a National Day of Prayer.
Sir, – Simon O’Connor’s concern about the future of our public services (August 11th) is well-founded. Public services are like the spinal column of a country – inconspicuous, but providing the essential underlying structure that allows everything else to function. The provision of vital services such as healthcare, education, transport, telecommunications, waste disposal and basic utilities by the State creates an enduring framework of stability and social inclusion that helps counter inequality, reduces social divisions and supports individual access to opportunity. The privatisation of public services will inevitably erode social cohesion by penalising those who can’t afford to pay, exacerbating disadvantage and storing up further problems for the future.
An insidious power shift is happening below the radar: as service delivery decisions are determined by “market forces”, the economic, political and ideological influence of the financial sector has been steadily increasing. For example, with privatisation, management salaries inflate rapidly while demands for “productivity” and “efficiency” mean that frontline workers are subject to salary cuts and poorer working conditions. Private companies assume no responsibility for citizens who cannot pay, or for those whose location, age or health make it “unprofitable” (in purely financial terms) for the service to be provided.
Many privatisation decisions abroad have been reversed, due to poor quality of services, lack of value for money and the degrading of working conditions for staff. On average, US federal governments contract back in four services for every six they contract out. In the UK, services that have reverted to being sourced in-house by local authorities include housing management, information and computer technology services and recycling. We should look carefully at international experience before we commit to undermining the social fabric of society by dismantling our public services. Yours, etc,
Sir, – I sat my Leaving Certificate just shy of a decade ago. It seemed accepted at the time that the system was outmoded and that change was both necessary and inevitable. Leaving school, I couldn’t have predicted the knowledge revolution which lay ahead. Neither could I have predicted that the Leaving Cert would change so little.
In an age where information is so accessible, the Leaving Cert’s focus on rote learning and memorisation is, at best, a questionable use of student and teacher time. At worst, the system inhibits students from developing the creativity and self-directed learning skills the 21st century demands. This seriously undermines the rhetoric which presents Ireland as a “knowledge economy”.
The delay in meaningful reform is puzzling. Proposals mooted to date are mostly slight modifications rather than constituting a fundamental overhaul. It is argued that the current system, warts and all, is at least one in which there is public trust.
Articulating and implementing change that meets the challenges of the 21st century isn’t easy. But the education of our nation is an area in which we should have high ambitions. Repeatedly failing our students like this is too high a price to pay for the devil we know.– Yours, etc,
Sir, – Given the proposal to give points for higher-level grades below 40 per cent (August 12th) to take the risk out of doing higher level, why not abolish ordinary level altogether and allow every student to do higher level? The benefits would be enormous. The transformative raising of higher-level participation would be the envy of the world, the multinationals wouldn’t find enough space for their new premises, the universities would be full, youth unemployment would be a thing of the past etc. Why not begin by giving five points for writing your name on a higher-level answer book (bonus if you write it in Irish and include a mathematical formula), 10 points if you write out all the questions, your name in Irish and include a mathematical formula etc. Bring it on! – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The HSE has recently assured the Irish public that our nation is capable of dealing with any global outbreak of the Ebola virus. As a medical practitioner, I find it hard to accept this assurance.
The truth is that the HSE struggles to cope with such regular occurrences as cold weather, excess rainfall or seasonal influenza. Whenever these somewhat predictable events occur, our health service quickly degenerates into chaos, with hundreds of people on trolleys, cancelled operations and a frantic scramble to deposit elderly people into short-stay nursing homes.
Moreover, thanks to the ongoing HSE policy of protecting clipboard-wielding managers at the expense of sick patients, our nation continues to have a shortage of intensive care beds, which are somewhat important in dealing with severe illnesses.
In spite of all this, we are assured that in the event of an Ebola outbreak the HSE has everything “under control”. Indeed, it seems part of the current plan is to tell people suspected of being infected to attend their GP, or as the authorities like to put it, “to seek medical attention”.
Perhaps I am missing something here, but what exactly can any GP do to treat Ebola? Since when do small surgeries have the facilities necessary to deal with contagious viral haemorrhagic fevers? Does such an approach not run the risk of primary care staff and other patients also contracting infection, and the disease spreading more rapidly?
Perhaps a better strategy might be for any suspected case of ebola to be dealt with by a mobile specialist team, equipped with the necessary protective clothing and equipment to deal with this lethal illness. Patients at risk of being infected could be thus be assessed and treated in their own homes, before being transferred securely to an isolation unit in a hospital. Or is this too sensible for the HSE? – Yours, etc,
DR RUAIRI HANLEY,
Sir, – The biblical episode concerning the Tower of Babel ends with God cursing mankind with the affliction of many languages. His motivation for this act is to prevent mankind from achieving its full potential by impeding people’s ability to communicate with each other. While some enthusiasts might revel in the notion of linguistic diversity, the world would clearly be a more peaceful and happier place if there were fewer languages not more. Proponents of compulsory Irish need to accept that the majority choose not to learn what is essentially a redundant tongue in order to focus their energies on more productive endeavours. It must be strongly asserted that holding or expressing this opinion does not make one any less Irish or less patriotic, as is implied by the constant pejorative undertone of the debate. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Pádraig Ó Cíobháin (August 12th) responds to my letter with a number of valid questions. Here are my answers. The difference between Irish and the subjects he listed (history, geography, religion, etc) is that (i) Irish is compulsory to Leaving Cert while these are not and (ii) I use history and geography almost everyday across a wide range of activities.
Mr Ó Cíobháin misunderstood my fumbling in a greasy till reference. I agree that we are much more than a nation of shopkeepers: we are leaders in computer science and high-technology startups, pharmaceuticals, high quality foods, and much more. If he reads further in the referenced poem he will remember the last line “Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone / It’s with O’Leary in the grave.” Which is as true now as it was in Yeats’s time. Yours, etc,
Sir, – In response to Derek Mac Hugh’s letter, I do indeed remember the insertion of the syllable into words which made speech all but unintelligible to the uninitiated. But with a little patience it was possible to break the code. Egin fegact egit wegas egeasegy. Gottit? Gegottegit? Yours, etc,
A chara, – While the boys of south Dublin may have had difficulty understanding English with an added syllable (August 11th), we Waterford boys and girls had no such difficulty. We babbled happily away adding “eg” to every syllable, blithely thinking no adult could understand us. Of course, everybody quickly cottoned onto it, egexcegept egof cegourse thege pegoor begoys egof segouth Degublegin. – Is mise,
RÓNÁN DE PAOR,
Sir, – Derek Mc Hugh’s letter regarding teenage language patterns reminded me of first hearing (many moons ago) one young chap saying to another “I’ll give you a bell.” I subsequently telephoned one of them to ask him to “translate” … ahem. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – In former taoiseach John Bruton’s judgement, bankers’ actions and their successful lobbying to ensure little or no market regulation (lobbying which continues to the present day) were not responsible for the financial crisis of recent years and bankers were some sort of innocent bystanders in relation to the enormous damage done by that crisis to our country and its citizens. So we now know precisely how much weight to give to Mr Bruton’s other judgement – that the Easter Rising was “unnecessary” and that genuine and real independence (although with no given time frame) was “inevitable”. Exactly zero weight. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Patsy McGarry (August 12th) quotes Dr Diarmuid Martin, who remarks that a curate in Dublin is “not at all happy” with some of the utterances of Pope Francis, which were “not in line with what he had learned in the seminary”. It occurs to me that Pope Francis wants to make changes so that the Church is there for the people. The article starts with Fr Ahearne’s view that a priest needs “humour, humanity and honesty” – qualities this pope has in abundance, more than any previous one, and which are sadly lacking in so many of the clergy. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Martin Fitzpatrick’s letter of August 11th will strike a chord with many of your readers. This inexplicable levy of €600 million on private pension funds was imposed against the backdrop of the decimation of such funds following the crash of stockmarkets in 2008. I wrote to Mr Bruton and my local TD at that time and, unsurprisingly, did not receive even an acknowledgment. It seems that there are no votes in private pensions. This annual levy was supposed to be for a duration of four years but was, with typical cynicism, extended indefinitely by Mr Noonan.
There is no such levy on public service pensions, because there is no fund to levy. If private sector criteria were applied, contributions in excess of 30 per cent of salaries would be required. Future liabilities would exceed €100 billion.
Public sector workers cannot be blamed for seeking a reversal of the cuts imposed on them, but I am sure they are reasonable enough to appreciate the plight of private sector workers, half of whom have no pension at all.
Mr Howlin’s recent utterances on the possible reversal of cuts in public sector benefits and the easing of the tax burden should be treated with contempt. It will take a lot more than tokenism to assuage public anger at the crushing burden of taxation, levies and charges imposed by this administration. If the local election results have been a wake-up call for the Government, they are just a foretaste of what is coming. Your correspondent will have plenty of company in the long grass. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Should the Road Safety Association prove imaginative enough to run Jean Dunne’s proposed campaign to ask cyclists to “respect the right of pedestrians to the footpath” (August 11th) I hope they can get around to adding a note to the same effect for motorists parking on our rightful space, often forcing elderly pedestrians, schoolchildren, buggy-pushing parents, wheelchair-users and others into heavy traffic; and often when there is unused free parking within strolling range. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Jean Dunne would undoubtedly disapprove of my daily habit of cycling on the footpath. In my defence, it’s the only safe way to overtake pedestrians walking on the cycle path. – Yours, etc,
A chara, – I agree with Cllr Michael Gleeson’s call (News, August 12th) for cyclists to start making themselves audibly noticeable again. But it might take more than bells.
When I cycled in Dublin I found that a polite “ding-ding” was generally insufficient to overcome the background traffic noise or dissuade that strange and incautious breed of jaywalkers who like to fling themselves into every break in motorised traffic with the abandon of lemmings heading for the cliff. So I added to my repertoire a horn which was activated ed by squeezing a black rubber bulb.
A sharp double toot of that not only made them jump out of their skin but, more importantly, back onto the safety of the pavement. It was, I think, a far better way of blowing them off the road than using my front wheel and handlebars. – Is mise,
REV PATRICK G BURKE,
Sir, – While I agree with Peter Crawley that “[a]nything’s better than doing nothing about Gaza” (Culture, August 9th), I detect a desire on his part to suggest that charity events like the Liberty 4 Gaza fundraising concert and an initiative like the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s “Artists’ Pledge to Boycott Israel” are somehow mutually exclusive. On the contrary, they complement one another; the IPSC fully supported the fundraising gig, and many artistes performing in it are signatories of the pledge.
The latter campaign was launched on August 12th, 2010 with 140 signatories and celebrated (if that’s the right word) its fourth anniversary with over 460. Almost half of these have signed up since the inception of Israel’s latest campaign of death and destruction in Gaza. – Yours, etc,
Lower Baggot Street,
Sir, – I write to express my dismay at the behaviour of GAA players before a big match during the playing of the national anthem. Matters reached a new low on Sunday at the All-Ireland hurling semi-final. Not only was there the usual exhibition of “St Vitus Dance” by both teams but a player on each team took a swig out of a bottle during the anthem. It is strange that the GAA, an organisation which prides itself on being a leader in matters relating to national pride, should tolerate such behaviour.
I have not seen players of any other sporting code acting in this way. As a matter of fact, I can say without exaggeration that I have seen more respect being exhibited by a pub half-full of intoxicated people when the national anthem is played at closing time following the conclusion of a band performance on the premises. This is something the GAA should tackle without delay. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – M Markey (August 12th) asks why his or her prescription medicines are half the price in Italy that they are in Dublin. The answer is simple: one country is run by a nexus of incompetent politicians and shady businessmen; the other is Ireland. – Yours, etc,
DR JOHN DOHERTY,
Cnoc an Stollaire,
In Ian O’Doherty’s defensive, vitriolic and misleading column about PETA this week (Irish Independent, August 11), I came across one lonely thought worthy of reply: “If meat is murder, then should we criminalise tigers?”
The difference is this: tigers kill for food because they are what’s called “true carnivores” and could not survive without meat, whereas eating animals is leading humans to an early grave.
The president of the American College of Cardiology, Dr Kim A Williams, like many more cardiologists and other physicians, recommends adopting a vegan diet. Dr Williams asks: “Wouldn’t it be a laudable goal (of the American College of Cardiology) to put ourselves out of business within a generation or two?”
The Irish Independent regularly reports on the findings of many studies highlighting the link between meat and the Western world’s top killers, such as heart disease, strokes, diabetes and various types of cancer.
Scientific evidence indicates that the model diet to follow is that of our closest primate relatives, and they are purely, or mostly, vegan.
Any moral person will feel sympathy for the human victim whose limbs were found at the recycling plant in Dublin.
But a moral person should also have sympathy for the animal victims who are forced to live in their own waste, mutilated without painkillers and killed and butchered, all for a fleeting moment of taste. So why is Mr O’Doherty so angry at the suggestion we should extend our compassion to animals? Instead, he trivialises their pain and insults those who seek to end it.
Mr O’Doherty might acquaint himself with the examples of vegan boxer David Haye, mixed martial artist Jake Shields, long-distance racing champion Brendan Brazier and former US President Bill Clinton, who suffered a near-fatal heart attack and now credits switching to a vegan diet with saving his life.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
Insulting the diaspora
Bravo to Ian O’Doherty for his article on the Government’s “remarkably unbecoming” bestowal of Certificates of Irish Heritage on various celebrities (Irish Independent, August 1).
Equally unbecoming is the Government’s hawking of this “ludicrous document” online for €40 (unframed) or €120 (framed) to individuals of Irish descent.
What a gross insult to the diaspora, what a disgraceful come-all-ye.
United Ireland, united services
Now that commemorations for political events that took place a century ago are beginning, debate on a united Ireland will be in the mix.
In the event of a united Ireland, one wonders would the Northern Ireland local government’s provision of services be reduced to the standards of the Republic, or vice versa?
As they say, it’s the little things that make the difference.
Dangers of revising history
I grew up sliding in to my grandmother’s bed at unearthly hours of the morning, listening to the terrible worries that were present when my grandfather was out on a mission with the old IRA.
I do not believe in violence and neither did my grandmother.
But I understood that she felt there was no other way to give us a life that was free from intimidation and misery.
She was right.
Ireland now, despite all her misfortunes, educates her children and prepares them where possible for a decent place in the world order.
I am extremely interested in what my grandfather did and how it affected him. I know that he handed out weapons, he definitely shot them, and those acts constitute acts of violence.
Nonetheless, I was shocked to see the vilification of Gerry Adams when I was last home.
I don’t agree with a lot of what he did, and whatever his role, he, like my grandfather, was automatically tied to the Troubles.
When I argued the point, I was more than shocked to see my grandfather likened to a role in an old Irish farce like The Irish RM, as if independence was not won but could have been asked for instead and it would have been granted immediately.
To say Irish freedom, like World War II, would have been won without violence now that it’s over, doesn’t stand up against history.
Revisionism is dangerous.
I don’t like violence. But pretending it didn’t happen, didn’t need to happen, or that it wasn’t us, creates a sanctimonious and delusional nation.
To reach peace, you must understand what it was that first led us to war.
Time we acted over Gaza
Recalling Winston Churchill’s slight on Ireland’s neutrality at the end of World War II, Eamon de Valera in his reply rightly reminded him that Britain’s right to exist should not mean trampling on the rights of others.
Churchill’s bravado in saying it would have been “quite easy and quite natural” to take us over, rings true for many dictators around the world today, and it would also appear to be the attitude of Israel towards the people of Gaza.
Cromwell’s land acquisitions in Ireland come very much to mind. Dispatch the remaining homeless natives that are left (the old Irish) “to Hell or to Connacht”, to live on wild berries and honey, and for those Palestinians still in their ancient homeland, Gaza must surely be Hell.
A population of 1.8 million people live in a hell hole a fraction of the size of Connacht and are locked in by land, sea and air, with water and electricity rationed and dished out at the discretion of a draconian neighbour.
Isn’t it way beyond time for our Government and our back-slapping, craw-thumping partners in the EU to stop their pious platitudes about slaughter of the innocents and come up with something much more positive?
America’s surrogate child in the Middle East is armed to the hilt with the most sophisticated war weapons on earth.
Knowing there is no military solution to this problem doesn’t mean a solution can’t be found. There can be an effective one, a moral one and a bloodless one.
For starters, our own little country could call in the Israeli Ambassador and demand an account for the disproportionate amount of death and destruction in Gaza.
Political twins Enda and Eamon had no problem closing the Vatican Embassy overnight for an awful lot less.
GP fee could be barrier to access
The possible introduction of a fee to control the number of visits an individual makes to their GP whenever government-subsidised access to GP services is achieved raises a number of issues.
Age Action welcomes the intention to exclude the over 70s, as well as those already on medical and GP visit cards. The problem is that the road to hell is paved with good intentions and once the principle has been introduced and accepted, nobody can guarantee that such noble exclusions and exemptions will stand.
Nor can anyone predict how high this fee will creep before it becomes an obstacle to people accessing the GP services. Before such a fee is introduced, we should try to think of other options.
Spokesperson For Age Action Ireland