15 August 2014 Clinic

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 clinic, twice.

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

101 Games: Mary wins 53 John 49 Mary Average score 346 John 340


John Blundell – obituary

John Blundell was a head of the Institute of Economic Affairs who outdid Margaret Thatcher in his free-market radicalism

John Blundell, former Director General of the Institute of Economic Affairs

John Blundell, former Director General of the Institute of Economic Affairs

5:40PM BST 14 Aug 2014


John Blundell, the author and former Director General of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), who has died aged 61, was a leading proponent of libertarianism .

John Blundell was born on October 9 1952 at Congleton, Cheshire, and educated at the King’s School, Macclesfield, and the London School of Economics.

His early political background was within the Conservative Party, though later he saw the championing of free markets, property rights and individual liberty as best pursued beyond the constraints of party politics. However, he remained a close friend of David Davis, the former Conservative leadership contender, whom he met in the early 1970s when both were members of the Federation of Conservative Students. In 2009 Blundell recalled making student predictions with his friends that one day he would run the IEA; Michael Forsyth would be Secretary of State for Scotland; and Davis would be leader of the Conservative Party. “I got two out of three right, and I’m still looking forward to the third,” he said.

Blundell served as a Conservative councillor in Lambeth between 1978 and 1982, when the Labour council was led by “Red Ted” Knight. As an opposition councillor under such circumstances Blundell had limited power, although he did make a point of refusing to claim his allowances.

He also objected to the council spending £800 sponsoring a Notting Hill Carnival float with a “highly militaristic and decidedly revolutionary theme”. “Lambeth doles out an amazing amount of money to Marxist-oriented groups,” he added. “One can only hope that savage cuts in the rate support grant in the next financial year will put an end to this nonsense.”

During roughly the same period Blundell was the press and parliamentary officer for the Federation of Small Businesses, also organising FSB evening classes for people wishing to start their own businesses. During the “Winter of Discontent” in 1979 he arranged for FSB volunteers to clear tons of rubbish while council workers were on strike. The National Union of Public Employees denounced his “gross provocation”.

While at the FSB he arranged for the publication of An Inspector at the Door — jointly between the FSB and the Adam Smith Institute. It estimated that there were 201 kinds of government inspector with 252 different powers of entry, employing some 100,000 officials. The report caused a media sensation, inspiring articles about Britain’s “Society of Snoopers”. Margaret Thatcher expressed her concern in Parliament and set up a commission to review and curtail some of those powers.

Although he was a confidant of Margaret Thatcher, to describe Blundell as a “Thatcherite” would have understated his radicalism. For example in 1978 he suggested to the Tory leader that local authorities should be instructed to mail all council house deeds to sitting tenants for nothing. When, during a fire brigade strike, Blundell proposed that the fire service should be privatised, the Metropolitan Police warned him that the strikers were enraged. “They advised me to vary my journey to work,” he recalled.

He spent 11 years (1982-93) working for free market think tanks in the United States. Such was his energy for the cause that he ran several of them at a time. He was president of the Institute for Humane Studies (1988–91); of the Atlas Economic Research Foundation (1987–91); of the board of the Congressional Schools of Virginia (1988–92); and of the Charles G Koch and Claude R Lambe Charitable Foundations (1991–92).

But it was during his 16 years as head of the Institute of Economic Affairs in Britain that he made his biggest ideological impact. He took the helm in 1993 after a difficult period when there was concern that the IEA had become too close to the Major government and too preoccupied by short term policy “quick wins” rather than the long-term battle of ideas.

While Blundell did not seek the limelight, the scale of the Institute’s output under his leadership was impressive. “I felt I had come home, in every sense,” he said. He had first come across the IEA as a schoolboy considering taking A-level economics and had picked up an IEA reprint of George Stigler’s The Intellectual and the Market Place, which had a profound impact. “The IEA had just gone through a deeply unhappy patch,” he said. “But it was too important to fail and it was being cloned more and more around the world. It was the home church of free market capitalism, the place that preached personal freedom and responsibility under the rule of law.”

He himself added several important works to the IEA’s output, including Regulation without the State (with Colin Robinson, 2000) and Waging the War of Ideas (2005). In Policing A Liberal Society (2007), he observed: “The average beat officer is outdoors well under 20 per cent of the shift, usually in the company of another officer discussing pensions, holidays, partners and superior officers. Just doubling that amount of time and making all officers patrol alone (unless extraordinary circumstances dictate otherwise) would quadruple their presence.”

Blundell’s other books included Margaret Thatcher: A Portrait of the Iron Lady (2008) and Ladies For Liberty: Women Who Made a Difference in American History (2011).

In 2010 Blundell moved to Florida . He lectured extensively in North and Central America as well as in the Caribbean.

In 1976 John Blundell married Christine Lowry, who survives him with their two sons.

John Blundell born October 9 1952, died July 22 2014


hmrc tax return letters with logos and cash

With tax receipts 3.5% lower in the first three months of the financial year compared with 2013-14, Larry Elliott concludes that “Britain is becoming a Del Boy nation” (Report, 11 August). “Low-level tax evasion is large”, but the government is reducing the number of inspectors at a time when it declares that all tax avoiders must “smell the coffee”. Could the “efficiency savings” of £235m at HMRC last year have something to do with the reduced sums arriving in the Treasury’s coffers? The number of HMRC staff in enforcement and compliance fell by 1,529 in the years 2010-12, and the trend still continues, with another 2,000 jobs currently under threat.

All the “morally repugnant” rhetoric and such like is clearly a pretence, deliberately achieving little so that friends in the City and in the corporation boardrooms can continue to fleece the rest of us. It has done next to nothing about tax havens where trillions are squirrelled away, rather than paid to the Treasury; the British Overseas Territories, according to War on Want, together “rank as the most significant tax haven in the world, ahead of even Switzerland”.

The focus now is on Greene King, whose “purely artificial” tax avoidance schemes are to be considered by the court of appeal (Report, 11 August). The scheme in question was bought from Ernst and Young for 10% of the tax saved. The fact that one of the “big four” audit firms is allowed to market such devices and be paid according to the amount of tax avoided is deplorable, and in any decent society would be criminalised. The success of the scam depended, according to the QC representing HMRC, on “certain accounting treatments” (Report, 2 December 2013) and Greene King’s accounts were signed off by auditors from Ernst and Young!

Not only is it time to end the practice whereby representatives from the big four sit on Treasury committees advising on tax structures, it’s time to punish them, alongside their clients, in the courts. It’s not just banking that needs a culture change.
Bernie Evans

• Without wishing to contradict Larry Elliott, there is one other factor to consider. Britain has an increasing trade deficit, which has a negative impact on both VAT and corporation tax. The deficit is balanced by oligarchs buying property in London and the south-east. As untaxed monies are unlikely to wave an arm saying “here I am”, labour-intensive renovation work can be expected to be outside the tax system. As cash paid into a bank will be reported to HMRC, retail sales can be expected to grow. Vehicle sales will be benefiting from low interest rates. Everybody believes everyone else is cheating on tax and benefits, so everybody cheats any way they can. A citizen’s income would have to be paid by taxpayers, which would encourage tax evasion/avoidance.

Fundamentally, inward investment erodes a nation’s economy and independence. The only way out is more national private-sector value-added employment; but governments of all parties prefer giving taxpayers’ money to the private sector to “manage” “public” services. We have a trade deficit because we don’t create enough to pay for our imports. We don’t like work; we prefer to manage. So IDS continues to manage poverty.
Martin London
Henllan, Denbighshire

• Katie Allen quotes Ian Brinkley of Lancaster University as saying “most employers will be very reluctant to increase wages much until we see faster productivity increases” (Report, 13 August). This is to put the cart a long way in front of the horse. It is precisely because employers have been relying on being able to draw cheap labour from a large pool of unemployed that the economy has been stagnating. The current recovery is based on low productivity because simply using more labour without any extra support in infrastructure is bound to ratchet down the rate of growth, as well as making a lopsided economy even more unbalanced. That is why we find that although we are eventually back to pre-recession levels of output, it is taking almost a million extra jobs to do it.
Harvey Cole
Winchester, Hampshire

• Time to stop protesting that the government’s economic plans for recovery are not working – because they are. Thousands no longer unemployed, albeit not working; thousands in ridiculously low-paid, insecure jobs; and thousands who are attempting self-employment. The government must be delighted – a cheap and flexible workforce, benefits budgets cut, and the bankers escaping untouched. Maybe we should, rather, be protesting at the real intentions of this so-called plan.
Christine Midgley

The faculty of child and adolescent psychiatry strongly supports the Local Government Association’s call for an overhaul of child and adolescent mental health services (Report, 13 August).

The problems are complex and longstanding. Child and adolescent mental health (CAMH) has faced a double whammy – lack of parity of esteem with respect to both age and mental health, with only 6% of the mental health spend while representing 20% of the population. Complex commissioning arrangements, with health, social care and education all acting as commissioners, have been compounded by changes arising from the health and social care bill and significant cuts in funding, particularly to services commissioned by social services.

We hope that the forthcoming Department of Health CAMH taskforce will address these problems. In order to be successful it must lead to: restoration of cuts to funding; recognition of the longstanding underfunding of CAMH services; and reforms to commissioning to create joined-up, integrated services. Perhaps then we can truly say that we can meet the mental health needs of some of our most vulnerable young people.
Dr Peter Hindley
Chair of the faculty of child and adolescent psychiatry, Royal College of Psychiatrists

• I have a 15-year-old daughter who has had serious mental health difficulties since she was 12. Initially she did not meet the threshold criteria for CAMH, even though she was seriously depressed and unable to leave the house. Nothing else was offered. She continued to deteriorate until she eventually did meet the criteria. Requests for a referral to an eating disorder specialist service were denied on financial grounds.

Recently she has been signed off from CAMH as “she is not an immediate danger to herself” despite being bulimic, self-harming and severely depressed. I was told to call Samaritans if I was worried. I am left watching my daughter slide into even more severe mental illness which may then open the door to specialist help.

The thresholds at each tier of support are already so high as to preclude any early intervention work. At every review of the CAMH service the thresholds for support are raised even higher. This is leaving vulnerable teens and families in an impossible situation – having to reach severe mental illness until they are seen in even the most limited way. My daughter’s care will ultimately cost the state far more as she is unlikely to get better on her own and will be unable to function in the adult world with a very limited educational experience. The cuts are brutal and a nonsense.
Name and address supplied

• My daughter died in Manchester last month, a drug-related statistic. She was a troubled young lady with mental health issues exacerbated by substance misuse. As a teenager, when self-harming badly, she was in and out of Styal prison. They were fantastic, they invited my wife and me to the secure unit and they were just awesome. One comment, from a senior prison officer, will stick for ever: “This is a prison, not a hospital. We are just not equipped or trained to deal with these girls’ issues. I have 400 prisoners, 95% are not bad people, they just suffer from mental illness of one sort or another.” At my daughter’s funeral, her community psychiatric nurse told me the budget for mental health support in Manchester is already spent.

It takes a superstar with severe mental issues exacerbated by substance misuse to get the issue of mental health on the front pages, if only briefly (Report, 12 August). How many dying Emma Jenkinsons will it take before governments accept that this issue is costing millions, causing untold misery and needs urgent attention? Prison is not the answer.
Mike Jenkinson
Altrincham, Cheshire

Mark Simmonds is probably in the top 1% of household income recipients of over £160,000 a year (Minister quits over ‘intolerable’ expenses, 13 August). He still complains that not sufficient of taxpayers’ money comes his way as an MP. I recently visited a friend in her 50s who worked until stricken with severe angina. She was refused sickness benefit, told to seek a job and got £106 a fortnight. This month she has experienced two heart attacks and an operation. Back home, her income and work status has not yet been changed. These two people illustrate that Britain’s problem is not just poverty but inequality. With the next general election in sight, will my Labour party specify by how much it intends to redistribute income and wealth from the top 1% to the bottom 10% in order to promote greater equality?

Next year will mark the 100th anniversary of the death of Keir Hardie. How about an official Labour conference to resurrect the principles which he claimed were central to the party?
Bob Holman

• No doubt Mark Simmonds is aware the maximum housing benefit for a three-bed flat in inner London, the largest for which he’d be entitled to claim, is £350.95 a week, or £18,249.40 annually, just over half of the £35,375 he can claim as a rental allowance on a second home as an MP.
Louise Lewis

• The piece about poor Mr Simmonds is reinforced by something I learned from a respected banker. Apparently, the British government will grant passports to foreign nationals and their families if they invest over £10m in this country. Such “investments” are likely to be in London’s bloated property market. The capital’s major law firms and accounts have departments busy applying for passports for these important new citizens. If this is a policy of the government, might it not, among others, attract those who gained their wealth less than honestly or honourably?
Graham Cooper
Smethcott, Shropshire

Law library at University College London

Your editorial and associated article (11 August) on the position of the Warburg Institute in relation to the University of London do not fully reflect one feature of the institute. It consists of the library, the photographic collection and the archive, all representative of the Aby Warburg legacy. The third of these is also a cultural treasure, reflecting not only the history and development of the institute both in London and before but also cultural life in Europe and, after the 1933 move to London, in Britain. Its holdings reveal the effort expended by the director, Fritz Saxl, Edgar Wind and other members of the staff in negotiating the transfer from Germany and establishing the institute in its new location. Contacts had to be made with British academics and institutions, and money sought to maintain staffing or to initiate major new publications.

Above all, Saxl placed his trust in Britain to provide a continuing basis for the work of the institute across its areas of interest as a reflection of the Warburg legacy. In December 1944 its gift to the university was welcomed as “the nation’s greatest Christmas present of the year”. Were it to leave London or Britain as a result of the current dispute, it would surely be a betrayal of that trust.
Graham Whitaker
Honorary research fellow in classics, University of Glasgow

• The worst thing about the appalling news that the University of London is even contemplating the destruction of the Warburg Institute is that it comes as no surprise. For the past few decades the universities have been worse than supine in face of the onslaught of neoliberal barbarism, for, rather than resisting it, defending the civilised values they are supposed to embody, they have colluded in their own destruction. They wallow in pseudo-managerialism; pretend to be about everything except what they should be; and, rather, glory in aims, objectives, outcomes, whatever these actually are. You seldom happen upon such words as “scholarship” or “learning” in the promotional material any university publishes, for these ideals are incompatible with what they have become. The University of London is not alone in being living proof of this.
Professor Michael Rosenthal
Banbury, Oxfordshire

Richard Dawkins trots out yet again his mantra about certain beliefs being “without evidence, without the need to justify” (Dawkins: I once fantasised about angels – and God, 14 August). I guess he’s comfortable with complex numbers – involving the non-existent square root of minus one – and with the big bang, a jokey name given to the inexplicable origin of the universe and of time itself. The truth is that much human deliberation and understanding depends on things incomprehensible to the human mind – mathematics, engineering and astrophysics depend on the “unjustified” concepts above. Religions, on the other hand, have probably been the sources of most human imagination, fellow-feeling and creativity: arts, music, design, language, courage, and interpersonal and formalised love. I look forward to Dr Dawkins leaving behind something as telling and lasting as the Sistine Chapel. His refusal to share platforms with those who think differently from his own limited certainties is, in a word, bigotry.
Ian Flintoff

What an inspired choice to have Russell Brand write about Robin Williams’s suicide (‘His genius was defined by irrationality’, 13 August). He could take us to places most people wouldn’t think about. His insight helped to shine a light into dark corners that he, and Williams, have experienced and we can only imagine. May he, and we, mourn Williams’s loss but learn from Brand’s insight.
Terry Johnson
High Kelling, Norfolk

• Mark Lawson’s theory of differing generational longevity in Hollywood (Analysis, 13 August) doesn’t bear scrutiny. There were of course contemporaries of Kirk Douglas, Angela Lansbury and Clint Eastwood respectively who died in middle age: Betty Grable at 56, Audie Murphy at 45, Steve McQueen at 50. Nobody can know that all movie stars of the Robin Williams generation (63 and under) will not live to be centenarians, but some of them will certainly outlive Mr Lawson.
W Stephen Gilbert
Corsham, Wiltshire

• Bad news for nut-munching diplomats (Report, 14 August), but whatever happened to our once-thriving native hazelnut crop? In late Elizabethan times, a dearth of decent Castile soap caused by hostilities with the Spanish, inspired the Southwark soap yard to set up production of hazelnut-based soap in such quantities that the resultant industrial waste of crushed shells was used to create hard floors for the Bankside playhouses.
Austen Lynch
Garstang, Lancashire

• After the elimination of the ruddy duck, I fear Paul Gleave’s plea (Letters, 14 August) to next tackle Himalayan balsam will be unsuccessful. Japanese knotweed has already netted all the resources down here in Cornwall and I would not be surprised if the same applies upcountry.
Roger Brake
St Austell, Cornwall

• Cats sneeze, too (Letters, 14 August).
Margaret Waddy

• Years ago we had a dog that knew who wrote Mrs Dalloway and To the Lighthouse.
Reverend Tony Bell
Rochester, Kent

We must move beyond war

We all seem paralysed by the hideous inevitability of the wars – Gaza, Ukraine, Libya – that fill your first eight pages (1 August). War is the most necrotic of all fundamentalisms, a brutal lie that obliterates every narrative but its own. What gives this psychopathy such power over us? How do we recover sanity in the face of normalised mass murder?

If war were a killer virus like Ebola or bird flu, we would mobilise to grapple with it. We arraign predators such as people traffickers, drug barons, corporate criminals; why are arms dealers, those cannibals feeding on human flesh, not indicted for crimes against humanity?

What does the UN security council mean by security when its five permanent members massively manufacture and export weapons? Three-quarters of the world’s arms originate in the US. Is the first step in reducing war a radical overhaul of an economic system whose only yardstick is profit?

Who designed the missile that brought down MH17? Who invested in its development, mined its components, manufactured, sold, bought, transported it? The hand that pulled the trigger is almost incidental. We are all complicit, all accountable.

We must move beyond this institutionalised, obscenely profitable and largely patriarchal violence that debauches sentient beings. What can I as an ageing woman do, apart from wielding my pen and working to extirpate the roots of war? How do I bequeath my children’s children a robust and doughty peace, grow more love than warmongers make hatred and fear?
Annie March
West Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

• Jonathan Freedland’s article (Gaza war is a lesson in utter futility, 1 August) deplores the actions of the leaders of both Israelis and Palestinians. Neutral observers can only wonder, in bewilderment, why both sides are so intent on such self-destructive behaviour.

The answer, perhaps, lies in another article on the Imperial War Museum (Military echoes bearing messages for the new world, 1 August). This reports, regarding the first world war: “Visitors always ask, ‘With all those casualties, why didn’t they stop?’

But, if you look at the evidence from the time, that’s the very reason people can’t stop – you need a justification for such terrible loss and that can only be victory.”
John Wood
Cheltenham, UK

• Despite John Kerry’s valiant efforts, I would question whether America can be an honest broker in peace negotiations in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict when it funds the Israeli side so heavily. The Israelis have helicopter gunships, drones, the Iron Dome and bomb shelters, all of which are assisted by US dollars.

The Israelis would be appalled by Iran being included in the negotiations, saying they support and fund Hamas – even though Iran is now discussing its nuclear programme, while Israel refuses to acknowledge its own nuclear installation.

Maybe more neutral countries such as Finland, the Netherlands, Ireland and Uruguay, would be better placed to take a fresh look at the underlying issues of peace with justice. On the smaller world stage, ordinary mortals can boycott and disinvest in Israeli goods until a more humane justice prevails.
Ruth Crowch
Reading, UK

• What may open a road to ease the despair of Palestinians is for those government leaders who have repeatedly reminded us that Israel has a right to defend itself to give a thought to the question of what a person living in Gaza or the West Bank has a right to.

Why not give these people the same right the Scots have to decide, by referendum, if they want to maintain the status quo or form their own country?
André Carrel
Terrace, British Columbia, Canada

Indonesia and West Papua

The newly elected president of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, is a cleanskin and it is understandable that people are hoping for a genuine break with Indonesia’s authoritarian past (1 August). A major hurdle in the way of genuine democratic change is the unaccountable power of the Indonesian military. Next year it will be 50 years since the overthrow of President Sukarno and the bloody purge of some half a million people considered to be communists or communist sympathisers.

Joshua Oppenheimer’s film The Act of Killing put the perpetrators in the spotlight and showed us that the militia killers and their military backers have lived free lives unhindered by their crimes. What is more, in some circles they are even considered heroes.

It is also just over 50 years since Indonesia assumed control of West Papua against the wishes of its people, but with the connivance of the US. The colonial Dutch knew they could not face down Indonesia militarily and were persuaded to abandon their plans to prepare the people for independence. Today West Papua is largely closed to international journalists and the military and police operate with impunity.

The new president will face strong opposition if he takes steps to examine the past. However, for those of us in the western club it is our past also. New Zealand, for example, welcomed the 1965‑66 changes in Indonesia and strengthened its diplomatic and trade ties with President Suharto’s regime.

My government knows that the West Papuan people have always wanted self-determination but finds it convenient to talk instead about Indonesia’s “territorial integrity”.
Maire Leadbeater
Auckland, New Zealand

Gluten causes real problems

This is in response to the article Backlash has begun against gluten-free dieters (18 July). I am a primary-care physician with a speciality in gastrointestinal disorders. We have known for more than a decade now that gluten intolerance is a continuous spectrum ranging from minimal response to gluten exposure to maximum symptoms at the extreme, called coeliac disease. There are copious studies indicating that any level of gluten intolerance seems to correlate with many autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Sjögrens disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus etc.

Anyone who thinks these issues are “a bunch of nonsense” are at best poorly informed, or just plain ignorant. Before people express opinions on such a technical issue, a quick Google search could prevent them from embarrassing themselves.
Joanne M Hillary
Spokane, Washington, US

A little help from our genes

I met my best friend in the bathroom of our university residence when it turned out we had both chosen the same washing cubicle, which we would share for the rest of the university year (25 July). As we got to know each other, we discovered we had a lot in common: for example, both our fathers had the same first name, her birthday was the same day as my mother’s and we lived in similar houses. The interesting thing was that, although we had met wearing our pajamas, we both had some clothes which were identical. While I am not sure that we share the same “genes”, we did have the same “jeans” (or at least dresses and shoes).

Although our initial meeting was “by chance”, we have remained friends for almost half a century.
Avril Taylor
Dundas, Ontario, Canada


• I enjoyed Ewen MacAskill and Alan Rusbridger’s interview with Edward Snowden (25 July). Congratulations to Snowden on infiltrating one of the world’s most powerful “intelligence” and living to tell the tale. So far so good. But he should watch his back!
Jonathan Vanderels
Shaftsbury, Vermont, US

• I found Laura Barton’s piece on the joy of the stick (8 August) to be a sad commentary on our apparent techno-dependency. Has she either forgotten or perhaps never experienced the liberating physicality of motorless activity, such as cycling, walking, swimming, skiing, sailing and gliding, or a host of similarly invigorating pursuits?

If the introduction of the driverless vehicle frees us from our obsessive need for speed achieved through an external power-boost, thereby allowing the car to be seen as it should be, simply a means of transport from A to B, so much the better, both for our own health and for that of our planet.
Noel Bird
Boreen Point, Queensland, Australia

• I was sickened by the report on Cambodia’s terrible trade in virginity (1 August). Only human beings would behave like this. We are certainly primitive and should be ashamed of all the vile sex trade that goes on around the world, as well as all the human slaughter we engage in. No other species has ever behaved as we do; it’s high time we matured.
Alan H Morley
Bryn Dyffryn, UK


I’m just an ordinary middle-aged Londoner.

I work in an office. I go to football. I like eating out. I enjoy the arts. I am a proud family man. I give up time for charity work. I try to be a decent contributing member of society. I pay my taxes honestly. But there appears to be something that sets me and my kind apart.

At park gates in East London a friend of mine gets told to f**k off for photographing a flag. At a pub in Bath my wife gets called scum when she mentions her background.  In a student hall in Manchester a friend’s son is asked to leave as the specially prepared food he chose to eat is not permitted because it carries a label written in a language used by a country that is “banned” by the student union.

In Belfast a historic blue plaque is removed to deny part of my history.  In theatres in Edinburgh and London I am told to denounce my opinions or lose the right to perform.    A sportsman in Ireland tweets if he sees my kind he’ll punch us in the face and recommends others follow suit.

Protesters across the country show no shame in shouting that my historical persecutors were right and social media is rife with vitriol towards me (even from so-called friends). And in Bradford I’m told that I am not even permitted to enter the city.

What is this? Racism.  Where is this? Britain and Ireland. When is this?   Now. Who am I? I am a Jew.

Never again, we say, never again.

Stephen Spencer Ryde
London N3

As a Jewish grandfather I recall going to school without guards outside to protect us. I recall walking to the synagogue with my dad, without guards to protect us. And I recall after the Second World War my dad saying to me: “They will not hurt Jews again.”  What has happened to our green and pleasant land?

Jeff Bracey
Great Budworth, Cheshire

Why Ebola is so hard to treat

Your Editorial “Treating Africa” (16 August) was spot on in saying that there is no magic bullet for Ebola, and that the lack of a cure or a vaccine is related to its status as an African problem. But this is a big oversimplification.

Scientists have been studying Ebola virus intensively for 35 years without finding a weak spot to attack with drugs. And if a vaccine had been developed, a very big issue would be testing its efficacy. The opportunities to do this would be rare, because outbreaks are very infrequent and occur without warning.

Far more difficult would be getting it to those who need it. In large part the current outbreak has got so big because the affected populations do not trust the medical systems in their countries, prefer traditional remedies, and care for the sick at home, where we know from previous outbreaks that carers have a 25 per cent chance of being infected.

And it’s not just Ebola that has a vaccine problem. Local polio vaccinators are being assassinated in Nigeria and Pakistan.

Hugh Pennington

RSPCA faces hunt supporters’ fury

I wonder if Grace Dent (12 August) would consider becoming the new chief executive of the RSPCA. Since the much-lamented departure of CEO Gavin Grant, the vacant post has been crying out for someone who has the guts, like Grace, to stand up to the vicious and concerted hate campaign conducted against the charity by hunt supporters and their friends in the media.

I am one of the monitors who collected the evidence of repeated illegal fox hunting by the Heythrop Hunt, which was used by the RSPCA in their successful prosecution.

The massive animosity hunt monitors routinely suffer is now directed at the RSPCA, by people who do not give a damn about puppies and cats, but who simply want to so damage the confidence of the charity that they will stop prosecuting illegal hunting.

This would leave this one large group of animal abusers absolutely above the law, because the police and CPS have demonstrated only too clearly over the past nine years that their will to do the job is virtually non-existent.

Penny Little
Great Haseley, Oxfordshire

I hear first hand of the animals rescued from the uncaring, uninformed, and downright ignorant. I watch my stepdaughter work long hours for little pay because she cares. I listen to the RSPCA-knockers and rage.

How many times has she been called out by time-wasters wanting the removal of a squirrel from their conservatory, a pigeon from the front room or a cat from a tree instead of being left to get on with the neglect and cruelty cases of which there are too many.

I see her come home exhausted, filthy and disheartened, but she will never give up the job because she cares.

The people on the ground who work for the RSPCA do the very best they can with the time and resources they have – give them a break.

Barbara Rainbird
Isleworth, Middlesex


Yazidi link to the origins of religion

The fate of the Yazidi has bought to public attention this ancient people whose strange beliefs in the Peacock Angel and the process of tribal reincarnation are said to date back to Zoroastrian times of ancient Persia (letter, 9 August). In fact they are far more significant and older, dating back to pre-Neolithic times.

Over recent decades excavations into the monumental structures at Gobekli Tepe, Cayonu and Nevali Cori (all in this region of northern Iraq), dating from some 14,000 years ago, have enabled us to gain an insight into an ancient ritual world dominated by the cult of the vulture as the intermediary agent/angel/psychopomp (“soul carrier”) between the living and the dead.

Murals from the site of Catal Hoyuk depict the vulture/angel ferrying the souls of the dead and the foetuses of the pre-born within a tiered cosmos which has echoes of the still more ancient cave art of Western Europe, such as at Lascaux and Chauvet, which take us back 35,000 years to the very dawn of religious consciousness in humans.

The Yazidi are a unique link in this chain of human religious development, a point to which most later religious beliefs can be traced, including Islam, which also claims to have been revealed by an angel.

It is amazing that they have survived to this day, and they must be protected, for their anthropological and historical significance as well as immediate humanitarian need, from the clutches of monomaniacal and moronic Islamists.

Dominic Kirkham


Action needed on cyberbullying

So much has been said about the internet and social media, and few would disagree with your thoughtful and balanced editorial (11 August).

I feel parents and schools in particular need to educate children more forcibly about how thoroughly nasty, vindictive and cowardly anonymous cyberbullying is, and try to discover why children feel the need to indulge in it.

Parents have a big responsibility to emphasise all the dangers of social networking, if children really must participate in the inherent narcissism implicit in self-advertisement.

The sites have a responsibility, too. Search engines’ handwringing must be translated into positive and meaningful action. We have seen far too little of this. Search filters are, by themselves, insufficient and always  will be.

There has been far too much talk and far too little action quickly enough. Perhaps some hard government legislation is necessary, as this is a big problem which is not going to go away.

Brian Diffey
Gosport, Hampshire


Misanthropy on the train

David Carter’s misanthropy knows no bounds (letter, 13 August). The “trish-trash noise” from his youthful fellow traveller’s headphones may not be to Carter’s taste, but compared with the general noise of a moving train this headphone spill is minor. And pulling a pair of pliers from one’s briefcase and threatening another person’s property is a criminal offence, as well as demonstrating that Carter is a curmudgeonly bully.

Ronan Breslin


The blame for jail suicides

For the avoidance of doubt, the words of the headline “Grayling’s policy ‘responsible for prisoner suicides’ ” (12 August) are not words I used, and I would not make a personal remark about the Secretary of State in that way.

Nick Hardwick
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, London WC2


Sporting victory

What a delight to see the dignified finish of the European 10,000 metre race by Jo Pavey – quite different from the ugly antics of the male winners who do not seem to know what to do with themselves on lesser achievements.

Valerie Pitt
London SE3


Terrorism is not specific to one religion or ideology but it is always divisive

Sir, It is certainly true (letters, Aug 13) that British Jews are distressed by reactions against them because of the Gaza conflict — but we have been here before: in the 1980s over the Phalangist massacre of Palestinians in Sabra and Shatila; in the 1970s with the UN resolution equating Zionism with racism; in 1946 when the King David Hotel, Jerusalem, was blown up.

If antisemitism seems to be rising, it may simply be due to new methods of communication — in social media such as Twitter people are much more outspoken than they are in print.

Whatever the case, why should British Jews be blamed for events in the Middle East? Those who oppose China’s policy in Tibet do not hound Chinese restaurants in London and Bradford.

It is vital for national cohesion that we do not import the problems of the Middle East and make Britain a proxy warzone. The good
relations between most British Muslims and Jews should be used as evidence that there is no inherent antagonism between the faiths, that Israel/Gaza is a political problem that requires a political solution, and we can best help by showing how it is possible to live side by side in harmony. If we cannot achieve that here, what hope for those there?

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain
Maidenhead Synagogue, Berks

Sir, You report (Aug 13) that most Britons feel threatened by terrorists. This is hardly surprising, as in the same article you report that in Oxford Street, London, Isis supporters were openly handing out terrorist material to passers-by and are being investigated under anti-terrorism legislation.

One wonders, therefore, how it is that, if threatened they feel, so many Britons in London, Manchester and elsewhere spend their weekends on demonstrations openly supporting the terrorist organisations, Hamas and Hezbollah — or do they become “un-terrorist” when their victims are Israeli (whether Jewish, Christian or Muslim)?

Terrorism is the same the world over and we must all stand united in fighting it, whether the lives being defended are the citizens of Israel, or the Christians or Yazidis in Iraq.

Anthony Levy
Woodford Green, Essex

Sir, Terrorism is not exclusively linked with any religion and ethnicity — in past centuries almost all peoples have experienced terrorism at the hands of other religions and ethnicities. However, Britain throughout those centuries has been a humane and civilised sanctuary for those fleeing religious and political persecution. Ethnic and religious minorities have enormously contributed to British civilisation and economic prosperity.

Terrorism has no religion. We should be united, especially when we are faced with problems of biblical proportions such as climate change.

Dr Munjed Farid al Qutob
London NW2

A review of a Prom concert reminded one reader of an entertaining concert under the same baton nearly 60 years ago

Sir, Classic FM often announced performances by our beloved nonagenarian as being under the baton of “Snevill Marriner”. Mind you, a current Radio 3 announcer says “Om” and “Ov” for “I am” or “I have.”

David Oldbury

Dartmouth, Devon

Sir, It is hard to believe that I first saw Sir Neville Marriner, still going strong at the grand age of 90 (Arts First Night, Aug 12), in 1966. The concert was on a cold winter night in a tiny village hall in Clevedon, Somerset, and he was in charge of a chamber ensemble drawn from the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Rodney Senior, the BSO’s principal trumpet, had just finished playing the first movement of the Haydn concerto. Seated in the middle of the front row was an elderly lady dressed head to toe in black (think the Giles cartoon Grandma). In the brief pause between movements her voice rang out. “Hear, hear” she cried. The audience giggled and poor Mr Senior took a while to regain composure and find his embouchure. Meanwhile Mr Marriner (as he then was), his back to the audience, could be seen shaking uncontrollably with laughter. It is an abiding memory even after all these years.

Martin Furber


Readers continue to flood the email folders with instances of linguistic abuse – and hilarious novelty

Sir, It would be refreshing to have a change from all those “sea changes” we hear about, which are rarely either rich or strange.

W Roy Large


Sir, When I recently rang my car insurer to question the cost of the breakdown cover I’d been quoted, the person I spoke to expressed his surprise at the rather large sum by exclaiming “Yowser!” I’m all for informality in phone calls, but a few days later someone at a government office ended our phone conversation by signing off with “Laters!”

Dr Matin Durrani


Villages whose names suggest a historic beauty which may be at odds with their reality – or not

Sir, I’ve always loved the name Ryme Intrinseca, having been born within five miles of the village (letters Aug 11 and 13), but I’ve since decided that Whitchurch Canonicorum takes the biscuit.

Alan Millard

Lee-on-the-Solent, Hants

Attitudes towards women among Sikhs have changed over the centuries

Sir, As a Sikh woman, I know only too well that Sikhs are “a proud people” (letter, Aug 12). So proud, indeed, that early descendants of Sikh gurus, the Bedis, would prefer to kill their daughters at birth than allow them to marry someone outside their privileged status.

Mercifully, under the British, this ancient custom largely disappeared from Punjab, and remained so until the 1980s, when its modern version — abortion of female foetuses — returned with a vengeance under the Sikh government.

Given a choice of a Gandhi-inspired “Hindu supremacy” or an undiluted male-oriented Sikh rule, I know which one I would choose.

Simren Kaur

Jalandhar City, Punjab, India

Village pubs can be converted to useful social hubs, or they can be rescued and helped to thrive once more

Sir, The closing of a village pub can be a win-win situation for all (letter, Aug 13). I recently converted a run-down village pub with a three-bedroom flat above into three shops with two one-bed flats above.

One of the shops is a baker’s, which I’m sure brings more pleasure to more locals than the pub had done for many years. The other two shops were taken by people already trading on the outskirts of the village. Both report an increase in trading from their central village location. The flats have been taken by young local people wanting to stay in the village.

Tim Mascall

Hatfield Heath, Essex

Sir, All is not lost. Our village pub — the Tally Ho at Littlehempston — was put up for sale by the landlord, and change of use to a home was looming.

So the villagers got together and bought it, and six months later it is very successful. Shares are still available.

Jennifer Galton-Fenzi

Littlehempston, Devon


Drinkers should be clearly informed about the risks of alcohol, according to an ‘alcohol manifesto’ from MPs Photo: PA

6:56AM BST 14 Aug 2014


SIR – The all-party group on alcohol misuse is right to question the labelling of alcoholic drinks.

Under current legislation, the alcohol content has to be on the label; but it might be on the front, facing you on the display, or it might be on the back, making it necessary to inspect every bottle. It might be on the little label wrapped round the neck of the bottle; in bold type or quite faint, in a plain typeface or a fancy script. Imagine how ineffective tobacco health warnings would have been if the manufacturers were able to choose where and how to print the information.

The next move should be to encourage consumer interest in lower-alcohol wines and beers. At the moment, the labelling is a barrier to informed choice.

Geoff Dees
Alford, Lincolnshire

SIR – An unintended consequence of the edict that alcoholic drinks should be labelled with a warning may be an increase in daily wine consumption.

No one is going to put a bottle of wine, replete with dire predictions of consequent ill health, on the dinner table – so we’ll have to decant the bottle. And as we all know, a decanted wine has to be finished off during the meal.

Captain Kim Mockett
Littlebourne, Kent

SIR – Each year there are thousands of deaths and serious accidents involving cars and other forms of road transport. Should a commission be set up to consider health warnings on all vehicles?

Leonard Macauley
Staining, Lancashire

SIR – George Bernard Shaw had it right in Major Barbara when it came to alcohol and government: “Alcohol is a very necessary article. It makes life bearable to millions of people who could not endure their existence if they were quite sober. It enables Parliament to do things at eleven at night that no sane person would do at eleven in the morning.”

Seamus Hamill-Keays

Naval justice

SIR – Commander Sarah West’s case is another example of the injustice created when suspects are named in advance of a full investigation following unproven allegations.

Television “feeding frenzies”, not only in high-profile cases, have destroyed careers, trashed reputations and ruined family lives, even after the accused has been cleared of wrongdoing. We need a return to the old English principle of innocent until proven guilty.

Commander Alan York RN (retd)
Sheffield, South Yorkshire

SIR – As a naval wife for 35 years, I think the Rev Dr John Cameron (Letters, August 11) has an odd idea of naval discipline.

Commander West was well aware of the rules, which exist to ensure the effectiveness and safety of a small number of people locked up together for a long period of time. She chose to ignore those rules, thus setting a bad example to her ship’s company. She has been justly punished.

Lady Coward
Torpoint, Cornwall

Nanny knows best

SIR – It is entirely correct that Stephen Rees-Jones and his business partner should be required to submit a risk assessment for their gurning competition (Letters, Aug 12).

I have it on my old nanny’s authority that if the wind changes, the contestants’ faces will stay like that.

It might also help if the horses on the horse-drawn boat trips wore high-visibility jackets in case any strollers on the footpath failed to notice them.

Shirley Puckett
Tenterden, Kent

Basis for change

SIR – I think it’s about time that you caught up with current English usage. May I suggest a change of title to The On-a-Daily-Basis Telegraph.

Paul Burrington
Surbiton, Surrey

Simmonds resignation

SIR – I can almost feel the sympathy for poor old Mark Simmonds from my fellow commuters, who travel for hours every day, at their own expense, in order to keep themselves, their families and indeed the country ticking over.

We would jump at the chance of a housing allowance enabling us to stay at least part of the working week in London.

Charles de Roeper
Pewsey, Wiltshire

SIR – Surely the Government could provide flats for MPs to use when they have to be in London. The rest of the time they should live in their constituencies.

Members of our Armed Forces spend weeks separated from their families, as do many other workers. Can our MPs not learn to live within the same constraints?

Christine Cole
Maesbrook, Shropshire

Anomalous midge

SIR – The one British insect that still appears to thrive is the Scottish midge, judging by the torture endured by anyone who ventures into the Highlands during still or unsunny weather.

Where there is agriculture we have gradually been eliminating other insect species through pesticides. Sixty years ago, there were many more “pests” such as houseflies and bluebottles about, but they made up an important part of the food chain for birds. Subsequently there has been a dramatic reduction, particularly in small birds and songbirds, to say nothing of the bee, butterfly and moth populations.

T G Booth
Bolton, Lancashire

A surprising cure

SIR – Bryony Gordon can stop the vitamins – pregnancy itself is well recognised as a (sometimes temporary) cure for alopecia. For some reason, it’s never caught on as a treatment.

Dr Jim Finlayson
Beauly, Inverness-shire

Happy returns

SIR – This week I have been training my daughter’s labrador, Clarence, to respond to the question “How do you do?” (Letters, August 13) by offering me a paw to shake.

I got an extra shake yesterday: perhaps he’d remembered it was my birthday.

Peter Waine
Pewsey, Wiltshire

tness and balance – as well as being enjoyable

A senior citizen enjoys a tea dance at the Glasgow Club in the Gorbals on January 28, 2010 in Glasgow, Scotland

Step to it: an elderly couple enjoy a tea dance at the Glasgow Club in the Gorbals  Photo: Getty Images

6:57AM BST 14 Aug 2014


SIR – Your report “Make gym more fun to attract over-50s” (August 8) rightly pointed out that exercise should inspire a sense of joy in people if they are to be encouraged to do more of it.

A recent BBC documentary showed a group of women in Japan, aged from 55 to over 80, dancing with pom-poms. They looked happy and wore smart matching dresses. Japan has a long life expectancy.

Many older people in Britain enjoy ballroom dancing, which improves fitness and balance. It would be lovely if there were more opportunities for it.

Ann Wills
Ruislip, Middlesex

We must approach religious education in a way that is both inclusive and sustainable

The Government must commission an inquiry into the place of religion and belief in schools, say clerics and academics

Schools must hold a

The law governing the teaching of religious education has remained essentially unchanged since 1988

6:59AM BST 14 Aug 2014


SIR – The findings of the various reports into Birmingham schools are highly disturbing. They found schools providing an education that narrows horizons, reinforces a cultural and religious identity to the exclusion of others, and fails to prepare pupils for a diverse society.

Meanwhile, the Bishop of Oxford and the National Governors’ Association have called for an end to compulsory worship in schools that are not faith-based. In practice, religious education has become increasingly diverse and inclusive of all faiths and none, but the law governing its teaching has remained essentially unchanged since 1988.

As a society we must treat religion and belief in schools in a way that is fair, inclusive and sustainable. Yet there has been no over-arching review of the place of religion in schools since the 1944 Education Act, which marks its 70th anniversary this month. We call upon the Government to commission an inquiry into the place of religion and belief in schools so that a consensus may be forged about this pressing social issue.

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE
Chairman, Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education
Andrew Copson
Chief Executive, British Humanist Association
Tehmina Kazi
Director, British Muslims for Secular Democracy
Jonathan Bartley and Simon Barrow
Co-Directors, Ekklesia
Professor Clyde Chitty
Editor, FORUM
Professor Ted Cantle CBE
Chairman, Institute of Community Cohesion (iCoCo) Foundation
James Kempton
Chairman, Liberal Democrat Education Association
Maajid Nawaz
Co-Founder & Chairman, Quilliam
John Bolt
General Secretary, Socialist Educational Association
Derek McAuley
Chief Officer, Unitarians
Professor Jim Al-Khalili
Dr Julian Baggini

Professor Simon Blackburn
Dr Susan Blackmore
Baroness Tessa Blackstone
Minister for Education (1997-2001)
Professor Sir Colin Blakemore
Peter Cave

Revd Jeremy Chadd (CofE)
Revd Marie Dove (Methodist)
Baroness Flather of Windsor and Maidenhead
Professor Chris French
Professor Anthony Grayling

Lord Howarth of Newport
Minster, Department for Education (1989-1992 and 1997-1998)
Revd Richard Jones (CofE)
Sir Harold Kroto
Revd Iain McDonald (URC)
Brian Pearce
Former Chairman, Buddhist Council of Wales
Professor Alice Roberts
Revd Professor Christopher Rowland (CofE)
Dr Adam Rutherford
Dr Simon Singh
Joan Smith
Professor Lord Smith of Clifton
Vice-Chancellor, University of Ulster (1991-1999)
Peter Tatchell
Revd Stephen Terry (CofE)
Janet Whitaker, Baroness Whitaker
Zoe Williams
Revd Simon Wilson (CofE)

Kurdish Peshmerga load aid onto an Iraqi army helicopter that will be taken to displaced Yazidis on Mount Sinjar Photo: SAM TARLING/THE TELEGRAPH

7:00AM BST 14 Aug 2014


SIR – As your Letters page is proving, whereas there was deep scepticism about Britain’s military adventures in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, the current deliberate persecution of a religious minority by the Islamic State represents a justifiable instance where Western intervention can restore the balance. Colonel Tim Collins speaks for many of us.

David Cameron’s and Europe’s ponderous reaction suggests that neither can recognise the right thing to do when it is in front of their eyes. If we were to trust in Europe, which I doubt we could, the coordinated European response should have been rolled out within hours. If we cannot do that now, what hope a European federation?

Philip Congdon
La Bastide d’Engras, Gard, France

SIR – It would indeed be an utter tragedy if we did not defend the Kurds (Comment, August 11).

I have had the privilege of visiting Erbil a number of times. In July 2012 I signed a memorandum of understanding with the Kurdistan regional government for the development of relations in a number of areas between Northern Ireland and the autonomous region of northern Iraq.

President Barzani visited us in Belfast last year and we had a number of companies doing business in what was then the most stable area of Iraq. I trust that one of the oldest civilisations in the world will be protected against vile extremism and allowed to blossom again.

Arlene Foster MLA
Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment in Northern Ireland

SIR – I fear that our politicians are delaying, just as they did during the floods of last winter, until the crisis becomes too large to solve. With overwhelming air superiority and one of the best-trained armies in the world (in spite of the savage cuts) we should be protecting the Yazidi refugees. The British public only opposes unjust interventions.

Major John Kelly (retd)

SIR – George Bush and Tony Blair did not create a monster (Letters, August 13). They destroyed one, but failed to learn from the French and Russian revolutions that bad regimes are often succeeded by worse.

The treatment of Germany after the First World War produced the Nazis, while more enlightened policies after the Second produced a modern democracy.

Geoffrey Hodgson
Shadwell, West Yorkshire

SIR – The Good Samaritan didn’t just pour oil and water on the stranger’s wounds and leave him by the side of the road. He lifted the man on to his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.

Sara Hewins
Marlow, Buckinghamshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – The recent hints from Brendan Howlin, the Minister responsible for the control of public sector pay, that some public sector pay cuts may be reversed in the near future shows how little attitudes have changed in our political system.

The country has a deficit of 136 per cent when measured in gross national product (GNP) terms. A real danger sign is that current expenditure has to be financed by borrowing, which indicates that Ireland is a long, long way away from financial independence. It’s not rocket science, but borrowing for current expenditure has to be stopped – any overdrawn consumer finds that out the hard way. But the coalition Government which came in on promises of a new way of politics, assuring us that Fianna Fáil auction politics were finished etc is now reverting to the good old bad old ways.

Since the drubbing they got in the local elections both the coalition parties have been making soothing noises about easing up on the agreed plan with the Troika. Income taxes are to be reduced, expenditure is to be increased. They claim that the anticipated increase in growth will cover all these expenditures. The most optimistic view possible is being taken. To listen to some politicians you might think that we are back in the black and the crisis is over.

All the relevant agencies – ECB, EU, IMF – are recommending that we stick to reducing expenditure by €2 billion, the agreed amount under the agreement with the Troika. Our brave Government is backtracking on this commitment, the same Government that came to power promising no let-up until Ireland was saved from financial damnation and the bad influence of those dastardly Fianna Fáilers who got Ireland into this situation in the first place.

What have we now? We have the coalition indulging in good old-fashioned Fianna Fáil-type auction politics. And they don’t even have the good grace to blush. Could we bring back St Patrick? Maybe this time he’ll get rid of the snakes he missed the first time. – Yours, etc,


Greencastle Avenue,


Dublin 17

Sir, – It is surely not beyond the logistical and technological expertise of the “international community” to organise an immediate massive airlift of the terrified, stranded Yazidi community from Mount Sinjar, given its displays of military prowess in bombing poor countries into the middle ages over the last eleven years. Such an airlift should however be carried out under the aegis of the UN and NGOs given the discredited legacy left by the US and Britain, that has killed as many as one million Iraqis, displaced four million and whose policies have fostered sectarian tensions in the country and wider region which have directly led to the rise of the Islamic State forces.

The response by the US of more air strikes at “selective targets” is a last desperate act of futility to mask its failed foreign policy as, in the words of journalist Patrick Cockburn, “a new and terrifying state is born”. This bombing, as recent history shows (look at Libya), will only make matters worse and inevitably lead to more civilian deaths.

We must question also the different approaches taken by the US and Britain to Iraq and to Gaza. Gazans have suffered an appalling military barrage in four weeks that has left almost 2,000 dead, including 460 children, and 400,000 displaced (that’s the equivalent of 4,900 dead and one million displaced in Ireland). No calls here for air strikes against an invading army that wilfully targets women and children or no humanitarian airdrops for the starving, displaced and exposed people of Gaza. Such hypocrisy should warn us of the imperial intentions behind the US and British calls for “humanitarian intervention”. – Yours, etc,



Irish Anti War Movement,

PO Box 9260,

Dublin 1

Sir, – Concerning the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn and its decision not to host the Jewish Film Festival, Desmond FitzGerald claims (August 14th) that “[t]he only reason to single out a Jewish event is because the person who first raised the issue is anti-Semitic, because otherwise the theatre would have simply announced that it would accept no events directly funded by any embassy”.

This ignores the oft-clarified point that the boycott of events funded by the Israeli embassy (ie the government of Israel) has been called for by Palestinian civil society itself in response to the world’s governments’ failure to sanction Israel for its occupation and colonisation of Palestinian land. Mr FitzGerald’s contention is merely an attempt to smear opposition to Israel’s crimes as anti-Semitism, and thus to equate all Jews, whether they like it or not, with the state of Israel. – Yours, etc,



Solidarity Campaign,

Dublin 2

Sir, – Desmond Fitzgerald states that the only reason to single out a Jewish event is “because the person who first raised the issue is anti-Semitic”. This conjecture is entirely unsubstantiated. Decision-makers at the Tricycle were happy to host the festival for the previous eight years, and they even offered to replace the Israeli embassy’s funding contribution with money from the Tricyle’s own resources so that they could host the 2014 festival with a clean conscience.

Mr Fitzgerald makes a contrast between the boycott of Israel and the supposed lack of willingness of people to boycott countries like Russia. There is indeed a contrast: in the case of Russia’s actions in the Crimea, the West’s political leaders exerted pressure, including sanctions. Thus it wasn’t necessary for grassroots human rights activists and concerned ethical shoppers to align in a boycott movement. – Yours, etc,


Maxwell Road,

Dublin 6

A chara – Some of the building materials used in the constuction of the Tower of Babel, referred to by John Thompson (August 13th), were deemed, by the early Irish grammarians who composed Auraicept na nÉces (The Poets’ Primer), to be made of the parts of speech of the Irish language.

Approximately 6,500 living languages co-exist in the post-Babel world of today, decreasing at a faster rate than the polar ice caps or the Amazonian jungle. Mr Thompson appears to want the word to revert to its pre-Babel stage, to speak of itself with one tongue rather than via many tongues, presuming, one might suspect, that his tongue will be the last tongue standing, which could be a grave presumption.

Mr Doyle (August 13th), on the other hand, is rather selective about what I wrote, omitting the fact that I mentioned compulsory English (the language of the new monolingual frontier envisaged by Mr Thompson). He maintains that I misunderstood his “fumbling in a greasy till” reference, and urges me to “read further in the referenced poem” , in which the refrain “Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone / It’s with O’Leary in the grave” appears. Submitting to your readers’ own interpretation of what Mr Yeats actually said in the first verse of “September 1913”, I give it here in full: “What need you, being come to sense, / But fumble in a greasy till / And add the halfpence to the pence / And prayer to shivering prayer, until / You have dried the marrow from the bone? / For men were born to pray and save; / Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone, / It’s with O’Leary in the grave.”

As I’m sure Mr Doyle knows well, when interpreting poetry seeming is believing. And indeed it seems to me that what Yeats said above is as true now as it ever was. – Is mise le meas,


An Cimín Mór,

Bóthar na Ceapaí,


Sir, — Brian Mooney (August 13th) states in his Leaving Cert results analysis that the “significant numbers” (which even though they are considered “significant” are not specified) did not sit the Leaving Cert Irish paper though registered to do so. These numbers he concludes “highlight the question of whether Irish should remain compulsory for all students not exempted up to Leaving Cert level”.

Without reference to the specific numbers and a comparison with possible similar issues in relation to other subjects (for example, only five of the 30 students in my Junior Cert class many moons ago actually sat the French paper) it is not clear that the raising of this question really is among the more obvious analytical conclusions.

Instead it seems indicative of a predisposition among commentators to question the status of Irish at every hand’s turn.

Were a commentator to be otherwise inclined they might point out that despite its compulsory status some 40 per cent of students opted for Leaving Cert higher level Irish, in which they certainly were not compelled. By comparison, Maths, after a few years of bonus points, has reached 27 per cent taking higher level and seems to be considered a success.

More luck to those in the Maths fraternity, by the way, and long may they prosper, but why can the commentariat not find it within itself for once to unreservedly acknowledge the promotion, enthusiasm, talent and hard work that underpins these Irish figures, especially in the face of an unrelenting and indefatigable cohort of naysayers? – Yours, etc.


Springlawn Close,

Dublin 15

Sir, – Further to Dr Ruairi Hanley’s letter of August 13th and his proposal for a mobile unit to assess people at risk of being infected with Ebola in their own homes it would be timely to make a few observations.

Most people returning from affected countries who develop symptoms will not have had any exposures that put them at risk of Ebola. Most will have common illnesses that we all encounter, such as pneumonia, urinary tract infections or common travel-related illnesses such as malaria, shigella or typhoid.

GPs have been provided with information and fact sheets to assess returning travellers and quickly identify whether Ebola could be considered as a possibility, and the appropriate infection control precautions to prevent any risk of infection. Details on how and where to refer such persons for specialist care if needed form part of the information provided. These guidelines have been developed in conjunction with general practitioners, and are similar to those used throughout Europe and the United States.

Although there have been several previous outbreaks of Ebola, export of the virus from an infected area to a non-endemic country is an extremely rare event and has never occurred in Europe. It is true that the current outbreak surpasses all previous ones, both in size and complexity, and represents a major challenge for control in the affected countries.

Transmission of Ebola requires direct contact with blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of dead, or living infected, persons. While there is a low risk that people infected with Ebola may travel to Ireland from the affected countries, the risk of secondary transmission in healthcare settings or to direct close contacts (family or relatives) is still considered very low if basic infection control precautions are strictly followed.

Protocols are in place to protect against further spread of the disease, including transfer to the National Isolation Unit in the Mater and contact tracing of those with unprotected exposure to bodily fluids. – Yours, etc,



Director ,

Health Protection

Surveillance Centre,

Middle Gardiner Street,

Dublin 1

Sir, – Might I ask that in future your correspondents tighten their use of language and stop referring to the supposedly cosseted “public sector” when whinging about the pension levy, and instead refer to the group they actually mean, namely the civil service? The semi-states have always funded their own pensions, just as our poor, victimised private sector workers (for whom I’m currently playing the smallest violin in the world) have done, and they pay the same levy on them. Contrary to John Whelan’s griping, there certainly is a fund to levy in the public sector. – Yours, etc,


Harmonstown Road,


Dublin 5

A chara, – Some of your contributors (August 14th) seem to be distinctly underwhelmed at the news of an ESRI survey that finds that students from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to go on to third level. It’s true – we know this already. This research will only have value if it results in action. Might it, for example, be used in support of the Education Minister if she were to seek extra funding in the next budget to restore the lost guidance and counselling posts in the Deis schools?

Unless some remedial measures are taken, the research work could indeed be seen as a pointless use of public money. – Le meas,


Delwood Drive,

Dublin 15

A chara, – Anyone reading Paul Delaney’s letter (August 14th) would think that the Exchequer would save €2 billion per annum if smoking were to be completely eradicated. While it is true that smoking-related illness costs the State a huge amount, this expenditure is somewhat compensated for by savings made on the pensions of smokers, who of course die younger. Like the outlay on treating illness, the extent of this offset is difficult to estimate, but it is reasonable to assume that it is significant. Any attempt to discuss how smoking affects public finance without reference to this is disingenuous at best. – Is mise,




Sir, – When RTÉ newscasts referred to the late Lauren Bacall as “the woman who tamed Humphrey Bogart” the station was confusing their coruscating screen duels with reality. As the fabulous Bacall was fond of saying: “Bogie in real life was a kitten; he couldn’t fight his way out of a paper bag!” Yours, etc,


Marley Avenue,


Dublin 16

Sir, – Wednesday’s main story in your paper featured, by way of example, the case of a reader who believed not too long ago that their home was worth up to €350,000, but when it came to sale time managed to secure an offer of upwards of €500,000. This led to an outstanding tax liability of €540 due to underpaid property tax. So, the party concerned had an unexpected capital gain of at least €150,000 and an unexpected tax liability of less than 0.4 per cent. And this makes the front page? – Yours, etc,




Co Westmeath

Sir, – I was astounded to see in a front page story that a homeowner who had sold a house for at least €150,000 more than it was worth a year ago contacted The Irish Times because they were being asked for an additional €540 in property tax to cover this increase.

I think we may be in danger of letting our innate dislike of taxes obscure our perspective here. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 13

Sir, – People who are just over the income limit for entitlement to medical cards don’t earn enough to pay income tax. They therefore cannot get a tax refund on their medical expenses. A person earning a million euro a year can. Therefore the person on a very low income ends up paying 25 per cent more for their medical expenses than does the millionaire. This is obviously unfair and should be changed. – Yours, etc.



Co Carlow

Sir, – Frank McNally writes (Irishman’s Diary, August 14th) that Lorraine “is one of only two French départements popularised as girls’ names (the other is Cher)”. Paris Hilton might disagree. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – Frank McNally may wish he had never heard of Paris Hilton, but Michael Jackson’s daughter, Paris-Michael, has surely done nothing to offend. – Yours, etc,


Gaoth Dobhair,

Co Donegal

Irish Independent:

Desmond FitzGerald naively asks why there are no demands for the Egyptian ambassador to be expelled, and why there are no marches to the Egyptian Embassy in relation to the harsh siege imposed on Gaza (Letters, Irish Independent, August 14).

The answer is straightforward: First, Israel remains the major occupying power in the occupied Palestinian territories, and is bound to abide by the fourth Geneva Convention, international humanitarian law and the rules of human rights law. Second, Israel prides itself on being the only democratic state in the Middle East, an oasis of freedom, justice and peace where all citizens can enjoy social and political equality.

Third, Israel claims to be the gem that was born out of the ashes of the Holocaust.

As a consequence, it has a solemn obligation to protect the vulnerable, the elderly, the disabled, women and children, and consecrate itself to the service of humanity.

It has a special responsibility to safeguard the lives of innocent civilians. The inhabitants of any occupied territory are entitled to special protection and humane treatment.

Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob

London NW2

Gene therapy is the future of medicine

The recent news (Irish Independent, August 12) that researchers in Imperial College, London have discovered a new method for treating heart disease by introducing a laboratory- created gene into the body of the person concerned is one of the many indications that 
gene therapy is the future of medicine.

The many crippling diseases caused by gene mutation that people are presently living with will hopefully become a thing of the past.

When scientists finally understand the human genome and are able to manipulate it for health purposes, diseases like cancer, arthritis and dementia will be much easier to combat and a great deal of unnecessary human suffering will be avoided.

One of the many benefits flowing from this development from the public health viewpoint will be the vast amount of money that will be saved in the care and support of senior citizens.

If governments are looking for the best return on their money, they should put whatever resources they can spare into gene research.

Judging from the rate of progress in this field of research lately, the benefits arising from such investment will become apparent in the next decade or so and will prove to be of lasting value to the human race.

Liam Cooke


Dublin 17

Home Rule and Redmond’s statue

Maurice O’Connell is right that the full implementation of the Home Rule Act, setting up a parliament in Dublin 100 years ago, would have caused “a bit” of trouble (Letters, Irish Independent, August 14).

But the act was passed by the most powerful parliament in the world. That parliament took upon itself the job of keeping law and order for the population of a good part of the globe at the time. So there is no excuse for that parliament not implementing its own act, giving self-rule to the island of Ireland.

Mr O’Connell is also right when he says that the conservative opposition’s backing for threats of civil war against that act of parliament giving Home Rule for Ireland was based on “sedition and treason”.

Given that fact, there is even less excuse for the most powerful parliament in the world not standing up for the rules of democracy by implementing the Home Rule Act.

A Leavy


Dublin 13

I have some reservations about John Bruton‘s favoured location regarding the placement of a statue honouring John Redmond. Mr Bruton suggested that it be sited on Leinster Lawn. My own favoured location would be a more central spot in the former second city of the now defunct British Empire, where it could be viewed by all.

I suggest that if the British government acquiesce to Mr Bruton’s wishes and dispatch their Westminster-located statue of John Redmond, it should be sited where the Spire now stands, preferably impaled on top.

Tom Cooper

Dublin 6

Hare coursing is barbaric – end it

The shooting of a peregrine falcon in Co Wexford has rightly drawn condemnation from the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys. The person responsible for blasting this rare and beautiful bird out of the sky should be prosecuted and anyone with information on the crime should report it to the gardai.

However, I find it somewhat ironic that the minister described the incident as “barbaric” and stated that the killing of the falcon “harms our reputation as a country that values its wildlife”.

The Government, of which is she is part, permits the obscenity of live hare coursing, in which a supposedly protected wild creature (a unique species that survived the last Ice Age) is forced to run from pairs of hyped-up greyhounds at venues nationwide. Many of the hares suffer agonising injuries as a result of being mauled by the dogs.

The minister’s brief happens to include the power to grant an annual licence to coursing clubs, enabling them to net hares for their “sport”. The licence has not yet been issued for this season.

Given her professed concern for our wildlife and our reputation internationally as a country that cherishes that distinctive and multi-faceted heritage, would it be too much to expect that she might consider refusing the license this year?

John Fitzgerald


Co Kilkenny

Parents’ key role in education

Before the graduation ceremony in a central California high school some years ago, I was talking to the principal about his graduation speech.

He said: “I am thinking of telling the parents that without their help there is very little we in state-run education can do for your child.”

I heartily agreed with him.

It’s a truism: children whose parents are involved in their education succeed, regardless of their socio-economic status.

Vincent J Lavery


Co Dublin

Brolly’s on the money

I would like to sincerely thank Joe Brolly for so eloquently articulating on radio the unfortunate predicament for the 10,000 patients in hospitals all over Ireland who were excluded from viewing the football quarter finals last Saturday.

Earlier this year, I was so incensed when the GAA decided to do a deal with Sky Sports, I immediately wrote a letter to Croke Park. In that letter, I stated all the reasons why I think it’s a bad and unnecessary move, including the plight of the elderly in nursing homes and hospitals across the country.

The response I got was less than sympathetic. There was no reference or response to the concerns I had for the Irish people who were adversely affected by this move.

It is obviously a purely business/ financial decision, which in most walks of life is absolutely fine, but I always thought the priorities and focus of the GAA was different – more focused on culture, sport and communities.

Well done, Joe Brolly.

Mairead Hickey


Co Dublin

Irish Independent


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