15 August 2014 Cleaning

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 sweep the drive and tidy up

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

102 Games: Mary wins 54 John 49 Mary Average score 346 John 340


Michael Parkin – obituary

Michael Parkin was an entrepreneur who set sail with Radio Caroline before dropping anchor in a Belgravia gallery

Michael Parkin with his daughter Sophie (left) and former wife Molly (right)

Michael Parkin with his daughter Sophie (left) and former wife Molly (right) Photo: REX

6:33PM BST 15 Aug 2014


Michael Parkin, who has died aged 82, was variously the founding manager of Radio Caroline, a Soho habitué, an exuberant gallerist and the erstwhile husband of the erotic author Molly Parkin.

A commercial television and radio pioneer turned art dealer, Parkin saw himself as the Mr Toad of London’s creative circles. His trademark greeting — “Poop poop! Big Kiss!” — would announce that a party was truly under way.

It was a role he embraced with relish, whether being treated to champagne by Francis Bacon in Soho’s Colony Room or selling the paintings of Peter Ustinov’s mother Nadia Benois. At the view for the latter Parkin insisted that Ustinov should stand in his gallery to pull in punters — the show was a sell-out.

Michael Parkin with Francis Bacon

Michael Parkin was born on December 1 1931 in Putney, south-west London, and educated at Mill Hill School before reading Law at Magdalen College, Oxford. His childhood was not entirely happy: he spent his ninth year confined to bed due to polio, and saw his parents go through a bitter divorce . The greatest influence on his early life was his paternal aunt, Dorothy Clewes, a children’s writer who introduced him to music, art and literature.

Parkin made a dashing captain in the Royal Irish Fusiliers and a handsome husband to the Welsh painter and writer Molly Noyle Thomas, whom he married in 1957. Both, however, proved temporary postings — his wife announced the end of their stormy marriage after five years by marching out of their Chelsea home with a can of spray paint, promptly deleting the “G” on a local “NO PARKING” sign.

After leaving the Army, Parkin joined the market research company AC Neilsen in Oxford. His move into broadcasting came in 1954 when, with the dawn of ITV, he went to London to work for Rediffusion. He then set up Channel Television in the Channel Islands and ran various film companies.

As the manager of the fledgling offshore pirate station Radio Caroline during the mid-Sixties, his first two staff appointments were the disc jockeys Simon Dee and Tony Blackburn. Parkin would later recall his fear at being winched aboard the pirate ship off Harwich. He also retained painful memories of the enterprise being banned by Labour ministers who included his former friend Tony Benn.

During his television career Parkin had been moved by the “collection of stories and circle of ghosts” uncovered by a documentary about a forgotten painter; and when he was seeking a new career he happily turned to the art world. Between 1971 and 1999 the Michael Parkin Gallery — first in Halkin Arcade and then in Motcomb Street — was a little corner of bohemia in Belgravia.

Michael Parkin with Donald Pleasence

Parkin’s time as an art dealer “shot by in an aura of happiness, laughter, admiration and discovery”. He focused on 20th-century British art, revelling in the research required for selling works. “Like the Victorians,” stated Parkin, “I have always believed that every picture has a story to tell, but I was also convinced that most people didn’t inquire enough about the pictures they acquired. To me it seemed that satisfaction was to be earned from a non-stop inquiry into the history of British Art and its artists.”

Parkin exhibited a talent for promoting artists who had slipped into obscurity. He revealed the talent of Whistler’s acolyte Walter Greaves (the waterman-artist of Chelsea) and the comic genius of the cat painters Louis Wain and Kathleen Hale.

Michael Parkin with Princess Margaret

He was also a skilled networker. He tracked down the Twenties beauty Wendela Boreel, once Walter Sickert’s mistress, to the South of France and befriended her. And after a 200-mile taxi ride across British Columbia he located Sybil Andrews, the British Futurist printmaker whose linocuts are now prized.

Parkin gave his exhibitions theatrical, suggestive and comical titles: “The Gentle Art of Making Enemies”; “Three on Holiday in Rye”; “Models and Mistresses”; “Cats of Fame and Promise”; “Artists of Immodest Means” . He revelled in a show entitled “The Café Royalists”, for which he gave a grand party, styled in Edwardian splendour. “The generosity of Sir Charles Forte in providing 23 bottles of pre-1914 absinthe from the Café Royal cellars,” declared Parkin, “not only made for a great evening but caused several of mature age to think that they were going out into Regent Street with a hansom cab waiting.”

He frequented London’s eccentric drinking dens with Lucian Freud and other School of London artists; while at Reddish House, Cecil Beaton’s 18th-century Wiltshire manor, he joined Mick Jagger and David Hockney in entertaining the by then semi-paralysed photographer.

Michael Parkin and Ian Board owner of the Colony Room

His many friends included Michael Nyman, who played the piano at Parkin’s wedding when, in 1983, he married his second wife, the textile designer Diana Head.

Parkin’s Motcomb Street lease ended as the era of gentlemen dealers slipped away ; however, he carried on dealing from his home in Norfolk, online and at London art fairs.

In recent years his wife nursed him devotedly through a long illness. She survives him with their daughter and two daughters of his first marriage.

Michael Parkin, born December 1 1931, died August 4 2014


Adir Ali sits in her devastated flat in Beit Hanun, Gaza.

As Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors and victims of the Nazi genocide, we unequivocally condemn the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza and the ongoing occupation and colonisation of historic Palestine. We further condemn the United States for providing Israel with the funding to carry out the attack, and western states more generally for using their diplomatic muscle to protect Israel from condemnation. Genocide begins with the silence of the world.

We are alarmed by the extreme, racist dehumanisation of Palestinians in Israeli society, which has reached fever-pitch. Politicians and pundits in the Times of Israel and the Jerusalem Post have called openly for genocide of Palestinians and rightwing Israelis are adopting neo-Nazi insignia.

Furthermore, we are disgusted and outraged by Elie Wiesel’s abuse of our history in these pages (advertisement, 11 August; Report, 11 August) to promote blatant falsehoods used to justify the unjustifiable: Israel’s wholesale effort to destroy Gaza and the murder of nearly 2,000 Palestinians, including many hundreds of children. Nothing can justify bombing UN shelters, homes, hospitals and universities. Nothing can justify depriving people of electricity and water.

We must raise our collective voices and use our collective power to bring about an end to all forms of racism, including the ongoing genocide of Palestinian people. We call for an immediate end to the blockade of Gaza. We call for the full economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel. “Never again” must mean “Never again for anyone”.
Hajo Meyer survivor of Auschwitz; The Netherlands, Henri Wajnblum survivor and son of an Auschwitz victim from Lodz, Poland; Belgium, Norbert Hirschhorn refugee of Nazi genocide and grandson of three people who died in the Shoah; London, Suzanne Weiss survived in hiding in France, whose mother died in Auschwitz; Canada, Felicia and Moshe Langer survivors from Germany, Moshe survived five concentration camps, family members were exterminated; Germany, Michael Rice child survivor, son and grandson of survivor; United States and 30 Jewish survivors of the Nazi genocide and 260 children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and other relatives of survivors
See full list at

• When I encountered Hamas delegates in Gaza in 2010, they bore no resemblance to the fundamentalists characterised by Nobel peace laureate Elie Wiesel. They stated they had “nothing against the Jews” (contrary to their 1988 charter, which needs serious re-consideration). They differentiated between Jews, Zionists and Israeli occupiers. This was demonstrated by the protection of the Jewish contingent in the Gaza freedom march, when we walked with many disabled residents towards the Erez Crossing in the north of the enclave. There we were warned we might be fired upon by the Israeli border guards should we proceed further.

I am sure that there are fanatical elements in Hamas but according to the United States Institute of Peace, Hamas’s political bureau has been indicating its willingness to explore peace negotiations with Israel for years (while keeping its propaganda condemning Israel’s existence) – that is, when Israel is not actively attempting to assassinate its leaders and incarcerating its members in the West Bank as they try to form a unity government with Fatah.
Peter Offord

• In 1962, interviewing me for a traineeship on the Guardian in Manchester, the then editor, Alastair Hetherington, asked me whether I thought he had been right to publish a full-page ad from the Soviet embassy. It was a lengthy excerpt from a speech by Nikita Khrushchev, and Hetherington had received a lot of hostile mail. I told him that Guardian readers were quite capable of seeing through propaganda, and he was right to trust them. He offered me the job.
Richard Bourne
Senior research fellow, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London

• I seem to remember the Manchester Guardian in the 1930s reporting quite extensively the speeches of Hitler and other Nazi leaders without anyone supposing it was peddling its own viewpoint. It thought, no doubt, it was its public service duty to make sure we knew what we were up against. The This World advert seems to serve the same purpose – happily, at the expense of the advertiser.
Ray Wainwright
Amersham, Buckinghamshire

• After the This World ad, the 13 August edition, with its centre spread of Sean Smith’s photograph of Adir Ali’s devastated flat in Beit Hanoun, Gaza, was hardly, in terms of balance, a case of quid pro quo, but a telling contribution to the overall picture.
Michael Gallacher
Whitchurch, Shropshire

• As Liberal Democrats, we are totally committed to the state of Israel being able to live within secure borders, and wish to see the removal of the existential threat to Israel’s security by an internationally recognised terrorist group, and the creation of a viable Palestinian state.

As recorded by the UN and captured by various international media sources, Hamas’s policy of using human shields to protect its arms caches in hospitals, schools and densely populated neighbourhoods must be understood as the principal factor behind the number of Gazan civilian deaths, and condemned as such.

Hamas’s commitment to the destruction of Israel and its refusal to recognise Israel’s right to exist is a huge obstacle to peace.

We hereby ask that the UK government and the international community call on Hamas to maintain the cessation of rocket fire beyond this current ceasefire. Israel has shown it is committed to a ceasefire subject to an end to the rocket fire; it is now incumbent on Hamas to do the same. This will allow the international community, led by Egypt, to broker an end to hostilities, involving the demilitarisation of Gaza plus recognition and adherence to the Quartet principles, which in turn will lead to the eventual opening of borders and a more enduring peace.
Sir Alan Beith MP Chairman of the justice select committee and former deputy leader of Liberal Democrats, Lord Navnit Dholakia Deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords, Lord Monroe PalmerLiberal Democrat, joint backbench international affairs committee, Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP for London 1999-2014, Cllr Barry Aspinall Leader, Brentwood borough council

• Like Steven Rose (Letters, 14 August) I have memories of campaigning in Ridley Road market in Hackney. It was 1965 and Oswald Mosley’s supporters were making what turned out to be last-gasp efforts to win support in that increasingly multiracial area. I spoke as a member of the Central Hackney Labour party Young Socialist branch, supported by an enthusiastic group, most of whom were Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews. We were very happy to have the support of the Association of Jewish Ex-servicemen. Two years later, we (me a non-Jew and my friends, largely young Jews) were virulently denounced as antisemitic and as self-hating Jews by most of the members of the Labour party for opposing Israel’s actions in the six-day war. Then as now, Zionism and the state of Israel were and are the most basic obstacles to any humane solution to the conflicts in Palestine and the Middle East.
Fred Lindop
Swanage, Dorset

The Tricycle theatre asked the organisers of the UK Jewish Film Festival (which the Tricycle hosts annually) not to accept a sponsorship donation from the Israeli embassy. The theatre offered to cover the costs itself and wants to continue with the festival – but the festival organisers decided to withdraw the festival. Some commentators have subsequently said the theatre was being antisemitic and should be boycotted. The theatre’s board, which has both Jewish and non-Jewish members, together with its artistic director, made the decision collectively that at this time of war in Gaza, having funding for the festival from the Israeli embassy would be controversial. They never intended to censor or limit the festival. But now they are being accused of antisemitism.

The artistic director, Indhu Rubasingham, is a Tamil who knows a lot about what racism means both in theory and in practice. She is not in any respect antisemitic, as anyone who knows her or has worked with her can testify.

Antisemitism is very much alive – as are Islamophobia and racism in many other forms. If the accusation of antisemitism is made against people who clearly are not antisemitic, then the power of that accusation is diminished. Punishing a small theatre for standing up for its principles is a big step backwards for anyone concerned with challenging prejudice or promoting freedom of speech.

Anyone who truly wants to stand against antisemitism needs to stand with the Tricycle theatre and challenge those who are accusing it in a disproportionate, unjust and ill-informed way. This is a special and vital theatre that has done and continues to do important work – which we need in this country.
Tanika Gupta, April De Angelis, David Edgar, David Greig, David Lan, Timberlake Wertenbaker, Jeremy Herrin, Hettie MacDonald, Mark Ravenhill, Mark Thomas, Stephen Jeffries, Meera Syal, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Roy Williams, Moira Buffini, Kerry Michael, Courtia Newland, Nicholas Wright, Indira Varma, Maria Ahberg, Paul Miller, Nikolai Foster, Hassan Abdulrazzak, Madani Younis and more than 500 artists and theatre practitioners

Your article about A-level success (Report, 14 August) highlights the achievements of pupils at the London Academy of Excellence. The academy has done very well and it is great that such an institution prizing academic success and university entrance now exists in Newham. I’m a teacher at Havering sixth form college, a few stops down the District line from the academy. Our college is comprehensive, and our aiming-high programme also got four students into Oxbridge, and one into Princeton in the US. We also have to make do with funding in the region of £5,000 per pupil, compared to new free schools that can have funding of over £30,000 per pupil. Good new free schools are very welcome, but they’re not the only kids on the block.
James Lauder
Hornchurch, Essex

• The students featured in the Guardian should all be justly proud of their achievements but with the exception of a student from Rochdale college, all attended highly selective or fee-paying schools. The London academy is lauded as proof of the success of free schools but has a selection criterion far higher than any other state sixth form.

The year-on-year obsession with students with cricket scores of A-levels and other qualifications does a disservice to state-educated pupils who would not and could not be funded for so many subjects and achieve fantastic results, often in challenging circumstances.
Jacqui Nicholl
Ilkley, West Yorkshire

• It’s out of the bag! Education standards are dissolved as Ofqual moves pass rates up and down to suit the political view of how many passes the country wants. Most educational observers other than Alan Smithers have always known that “standards” are made by politicians – they never came to us from out of the ether after all.
Professor Saville Kushner
University of Auckland

Sistine Chapel: The Last Judgement by Michelangelo

Ian Flintoff accuses Richard Dawkins of being a bigot for his wise refusal to share platforms with creationists since it gave credence to their views (Letters, 15 August). I think we’ll all agree with Flintoff that people, inspired by religion, have produced some beautiful art, literature and architecture. But people, inspired by religion, have produced, and continue to produce, terrible devastation, misery and suffering. It is true that many distinguished, successful and clever people have been inspired by religion, satisfied by religion, and have been active in supporting religion. But the fact that some clever people enjoy the intoxication of religion doesn’t change the fact that belief in the existence of supernatural beings is a pretty poor basis for understanding phenomena. Richard Dawkins is right to refuse to try publicly to reason with people who refuse to reason.
Peter Dunne
Preston, Lancashire

• In pointing out that religions have been sources of human imagination and creativity, and thus claiming that religious thought is on a par with scientific reason, Ian Flintoff makes the common mistake of conflating subjective metaphysics with objective physical fact and reality. Believing that something is true simply because one believes it applies only to the former. And he is quite wrong to say that complex numbers and the big bang are unjustified and incomprehensible concepts. The first is simply a mathematical construct – both justified and comprehensible – while the big bang was discovered through scientific enquiry, an ongoing process that has not yet fully answered many of our questions about the physical nature of the universe. I’m quite sure that Richard Dawkins could not create an artwork such as the Sistine Chapel. But neither could the pope.
Peter Ostrowski
Wickford, Essex

If you want an example of Robin Williams showing his “British side” (What planet did he come from, G2, 13 August), there’s the nasty landlord in the first series of Mork & Mindy. To the delight of UK viewers – OK, to the perturbation of a few – Williams named the character Arnold Wanker.
John Cranston

• I’m puzzled as to how Mike Allott (Letters, 14 August) differentiates between “extreme pacifists” and, well, pacifists.
Harry Harmer
Eastbourne, East Sussex

• A shortage of Turkish hazelnuts for our chocolate bars (Devastated hazel harvest puts the ambassador’s reception at risk, 14 August)? But there’s a glut of ripening hazelnuts here in the UK. It’s been a wonderful year, and the trees are loaded. I’m just off a-gathering with my grandsons. Does anyone have the address of the (Cadbury) whole nut chocolate factory handy?
Bridget Gubbins
Morpeth, Northumberland

• On the subject of bloopers (Fire and class rip through Downton, 15 August), at a showing of August: Osage County in our village hall the other day a member of the audience noticed that at dinner the American characters played by English actors (Messrs Cumberbatch and McGregor) held their knives and forks correctly, instead of the American way.
Hugh Darwen

• Marion Kuit (Letters, 13 August) need not worry about Sudoku being a sport. I always understood that to qualify to be a sport you have to change your shoes.
Howard Lambert

• It’s obvious that dogs are the fascists … have you ever seen a police cat (Letters, 15 August)? (Thanks to Dave Sheridan and Gilbert Shelton of Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers fame.)
Simon Hargreaves
Cromford, Derbyshire

• Our pet lizard cannot speak, doesn’t know who wrote what, but can draw a completely accurate map of southern Cornwall.
Robert Maclean


In response to Friday’s letter by Stephen Spencer Ryde on the rise of anti-Semitism, I think it is important to highlight the dangers of conflating anti-Semitism and criticism of Israel.

It is certainly not anti-Semitic to boycott Israeli products (as the National Union of Students has democratically voted to do) and George Galloway’s desire to make Bradford an “Israel-free zone”, while perhaps offensive, is also not to be conflated with Jew-hatred.

Anti-Semitism still thrives in Europe – primarily in Eastern Europe – but it is dangerous and disingenuous to conflate activism against Israeli war crimes with general Jew-hatred.

Such a conflation is particularly offensive to the large number of Jews and Jewish organisations who have taken part in protests against the siege on Gaza.

It also plays down, as was previously highlighted by your columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, the much more virulent and – most importantly – state-sanctioned Islamophobia.

 Muslims are being demonised, attacked and subject to scrutiny by state security services in a way often reminiscent of early 20th century Jew-hatred. Ironically, much of the hatred against Muslims is purportedly justified by accusations of anti-Semitism in Muslim communities.

Alex MacDonald
London SE4

Stephen Spencer Ryde and Jeff Bracey (letters, 15 August) should not be so surprised at what they see happening in this green and pleasant land. It is not happening in a vacuum.

The reaction they are experiencing is a protest against the disproportionately brutal actions being taken by a state which proudly claims to be acting on behalf of their “kind”. Like any other form of racism, anti-Semitism is never acceptable. But this reaction is not anti-Semitism, it is anti-brutalism – and any complaints should be addressed to the government of Israel.

Simon Prentis
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire


We must not associate our Jewish friends and neighbours with the actions of the state of Israel. Many Jews living in the UK, Europe and the US are appalled by the actions of Israel towards the Palestinian peoples.

Israel has occupied Palestinian homes and farms, built new towns and colonised areas of Palestine. Hamas is making a futile endeavour to win back Palestine against overwhelming odds. No other nation would be permitted to get away with Israel’s atrocities. We see over 2,000 Palestinian men women and children killed and 7,000 injured by Israel’s use of heavy shells, missiles and bombs in Gaza.

In the face of these Israeli crimes we must not condemn our Jewish friends and neighbours – many of whom share our abhorrence. Our condemnation should be directed only at Israel. Our efforts and anger should be directed towards our governments in the UK, Europe and the US, demanding action against Israel and justice for the Palestinian people.

Martin Deighton
Woodbridge, Suffolk


Peerages for party donors

Chris Green’s revelation (14 August) that one Tory donor was ennobled under false pretences misses the crucial point. Not one peer has any mandate from the electorate. Never mind the lingering smell that some peerages appear connected to multiple party donations.

By adding 22 more peers to an already bloated House of Lords, every party leader who put forward a name spits in the face of democracy. The “Big Society” was supposed to redistribute power from “the elite in Whitehall to the man and woman on the street”. But our leaders are deaf to the needs of the poor, but listen to the rich.

The House of Lords is beyond reform. It must not be used as a back door for party donations. Abolition is the only solution.

John Hughes
Brentford, Middlesex


Vicky Beeching freed from guilt and shame

Vicky Beeching’s inspiring account of a painful path suffered, finally resulting in announcing her sexuality (14 August), will no doubt ring true with many a Christian both within the church and among those who have left.

For many, guilt and shame are burdens laid upon them by fellow believers, not just in terms of sexuality, but also with many other perceived undesirable human traits. Certain parts of the evangelical and charismatic church are quick to judge and rid people of these “demons”. Consequently many feel they are unworthy and leave, some traumatised, quietly carrying their burdens with them.

The Christian faith teaches love and forgiveness; it is not Vicky Beeching’s faith that considers her sinful and wrong, it is other Christians. The trouble is that so many Christians seem to forget how inclusive Christ was in his life. Perhaps if the church were to be less judging and more accommodating, following in Christ’s example, there might be more enjoying their faith.

Vicky Beeching, thank you, and may many be free from their burdens through your testimony.

Simon Cullingford
Walberton, West Sussex

No ‘surly’ staff  on this train

I would like to give a different picture of railway staff from that conveyed by Oliver Wright (“Why a John Lewis business model might solve the problem of surly station staff”, 13 August).

I was travelling on a CrossCountry train two days ago, when sadly someone threw themselves in front of this train between Birmingham International and Coventry.

We were sensitively told that there had been an incident, kept informed that we would have to stay stationary for a couple of hours, and as things developed told what would happen. The young manager walked along the whole train giving people an opportunity to ask questions, and then he gave out claim forms for delays.

I was impressed how they handled this sad situation. When I asked how the driver was, I was glad to hear that the driver had to be seen before the train could move on. Apparently this driver had had similar situations happen to him  three times. They were extremely appreciative that someone had even asked.

The consequence of all of this was that I didn’t get to my appointment. The whole of the rail system was upset for hours, and I presume there must have been a very unhappy family somewhere.

Although I have never been happy with the privatisation of the rail system, we all had exemplary service.

Jenny Dunlop
Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire


Publicity for Cliff Richard raid

It is the remit of the police to investigate any allegations reported to them, but since when has it been permissible to brief the media that investigations are under way, even to the extent that a helicopter was able to monitor the arrival of investigating officers?

The publicity regarding  the police search of Cliff Richard’s property calls into question the whole concept of “innocent until proven guilty”. The conduct of the police in this instance is reprehensible.

Dorothy Bunsee


Shooting estates help grouse to thrive

Tony Hams (letter, 14 August) is fundamentally mistaken in his understanding of grouse shooting.

Grouse are not reared – they are a wild bird whose population can only be encouraged by sympathetic habitat management. This is carried out by moorland owners. Creating and encouraging the habitat which allows grouse to thrive also benefits many other species, such as lapwing and golden plover.

At least 941,000 hectares of upland Britain are managed for grouse shooting. This includes land, particularly heather moorland, preserved and maintained by upland shooting estates, which is of international conservation importance for breeding populations of waders and other wildlife.

In addition, the economic benefits of grouse shooting, such as the jobs provided and income generated for local rural economies, support upland communities. Without grouse shooting, jobs would go, schools, pubs and local businesses would suffer.

In addition, red grouse – a bird unique to the UK – provides delicious game meat which is widely celebrated and enjoyed.

Amanda Anderson
Director, the Moorland Association

Tim Russell
Director of Conservation, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation

Rossett, Wrexham


Beers that taste different

Gillian Orr has just discovered that all lager tastes the same (“Labels of love”, 14 August).

The Campaign for Real Ale and its 160,000 members have known that for years. Next time Gillian is in a pub she should avoid the lager and try some proper beer.

Rob Edwards


‘We as a society must care for our mentally ill just as we care for the physically ill’

Sir, For the most part the comment surrounding the death of Robin Williams has helped to further the cause of greater understanding of those who suffer from mental illness. The destigmatisation of the mentally ill is vital.

This is not, as some appear to think, part of a liberal touchy-feely agenda which seeks to extend acceptance of difference and to advance the protection of human rights (as illustrated by the Mental Capacity Act 2005).

What is needed urgently is not mere acceptance of the mentally ill but concerted action to help them deal with, in many cases, a very serious physical illness which just happens to affect the brain.

As the mother of a son who has suffered from severe bipolar disorder, I find the provision in the NHS and social services to help young people like him pitiful and heartbreaking. Programmes to help those whose condition makes it impossible for them to take up the programmes is not the answer.

Non-attendance at psychiatric appointments should ring alarm bells, not lead to a patient’s treatment being discontinued. Worst of all, discharging a patient from intensive care into completely unsupported homeless persons’ B&B accommodation is akin to putting someone who has just had their leg amputated on the top floor of a lift-less block of flats. Transferring responsibility to the seriously mentally ill for their own care as the Mental Capacity Act would seem to require shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what mental illness is. We, as a society, need to care for our mentally ill just as we care for the physically ill.

Amanda Milne
London WC2

Sir, Robin Williams’s death has brought mental health back into the spotlight. It is a fact that mental health can affect anyone, regardless of background, and for many, there can be catastrophic consequences if help isn’t provided early enough. In the UK more than half of adults with mental health problems are diagnosed in childhood, half of which become apparent before the age of 14, and less than half are treated appropriately at the time. This, and the expenditure of just 6 per cent of the mental health budget on children, has led to a startling £13 billion a year being spent on trying to address the consequences of untreated mental health conditions. These include alcohol and drug misuse, self-harm, neglect and in extreme cases, suicide.

Lack of early intervention has fed the current crisis we are witnessing in mental health services — they are overstretched and underfunded, and as reported recently by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, two thirds of adults are not receiving the treatment they so badly need.

Dr Hilary Cass
President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health

The inefficiencies and injustices in the system for collecting the BBC licence fee are increasingly resented

Sir, It is not the BBC that sends 100,000 letters each day demanding payment of the licence fee, which is
in reality a tax. Collection is sub-contracted to a range of private firms that make a return for themselves, and this method of collection costs the BBC well over £100 million per annum. I haven’t seen the details of the contracts, but I suspect that they involve a mark-up on costs, which will include sending out as many reminders as the companies concerned can manage. So far as I know there is no parliamentary scrutiny of this process.

Irrespective of whether we should have public sector broadcasting on the scale we currently do, it is difficult to see why the tax should be collected in this bizarre way, reminiscent of the exploitative behaviour of the tax-farmers of pre-revolutionary France.

Professor JR Shackleton

University of Buckingham

Sir, The criticism of the BBC for sending 100,000 reminder letters a day is grossly unfair. Anyone who has responsibility for enforcement knows that prompt action is the key to success and is recognised good practice by local authorities, Revenue and business.

Debt advisers all tell debtors to make early contact in case of difficulty with payment. Having been responsible for enforcement of fines, including TV licence fines, for over 20 years I can testify to the problems which arise if control over debtors is lost — problems multiply.

It may be that the BBC could improve its practices, but we should congratulate it on speedy enforcement. The more is collected, the less the prompt payers have to subsidise defaulters.

Donald C Swift

Retired Justices’ Clerk

Widnes, Cheshire

Sir, Like Joanna Martin I too have been harassed by the BBC with threatening letters. In desperation I have paid two sets of licence fees for years. I see it as another housing tax.

Sandra Noakes

Handbridge, Chester

Scottish independence and the multiple ways of being a UK citizen in the modern world

Sir, My friend and colleague Alan Riach (report, Aug 13) has a strong case when he and Sandy Stoddart complain about the lack of focus on the cultural arguments for Scottish independence. “Freedom to vary corporation tax and/or airport traffic duty (within the financial constraints set by a possible currency union)” is hardly a compelling slogan.

The question for me is: whose culture (or cultures)? As with all long-lasting states there are dark sides to the UK’s history, and there remain things that are wrong, some very wrong — states are always a work in progress. But something I think is great about living in the modern UK is that it is increasingly possible to be comfortable with multiple ways of being a UK citizen, and with the rich complexities of the UK’s cultures.

The UK, despite the yearnings of those wanting to return to an imaginary monocultural 1950s or of those who consider it beyond repair, has a demonstrable capacity to change. Plenty of places in the world would like something like it. Is that not worth hanging on to?

Professor Jeremy Smith

Milngavie, Dunbartonshire

Wading into the philosophical eddies which swirl about our notions of self and others

Sir, Of robot consciousness Matthew Parris (Aug 13) says we cannot prove that any other human is conscious and adds that the last words on the subject were written by Descartes and Berkeley three centuries ago. Not quite the last words; I suggest that Mr Parris reads some of Wittgenstein’s thoughts on the subject of “other minds”. He might find that the idea of “proof” here is rather confused, as is the alternative position that all we have otherwise is “supposition”.

Hywel Davies


Not banning photography can give a gallery invaluable publicity as younger visitors enthuse on social media

Sir, I always thought the National Gallery’s photography ban short-sighted (Aug 14). The Rijksmuseum has long indulged its younger patrons’ innocent wish to record what is often the highlight of a visit to Amsterdam.

Treasured images are proudly pinged around the globe via social media, providing the gallery and the city with huge free publicity.

Stewart Moore

Portstewart, Coleraine

Scottish independence and the multiple ways of being a UK citizen in the modern world

Sir, My friend and colleague Alan Riach (report, Aug 13) has a strong case when he and Sandy Stoddart complain about the lack of focus on the cultural arguments for Scottish independence. “Freedom to vary corporation tax and/or airport traffic duty (within the financial constraints set by a possible currency union)” is hardly a compelling slogan.

The question for me is: whose culture (or cultures)? As with all long-lasting states there are dark sides to the UK’s history, and there remain things that are wrong, some very wrong — states are always a work in progress. But something I think is great about living in the modern UK is that it is increasingly possible to be comfortable with multiple ways of being a UK citizen, and with the rich complexities of the UK’s cultures.

The UK, despite the yearnings of those wanting to return to an imaginary monocultural 1950s or of those who consider it beyond repair, has a demonstrable capacity to change. Plenty of places in the world would like something like it. Is that not worth hanging on to?

Professor Jeremy Smith

Milngavie, Dunbartonshire


SIR – On July 25 my husband received a partial hip replacement in Brighton. After six days he was placed on the transfer list for a place near his home in Surrey, but two weeks later there was still no bed available and no way ahead was settled.

Consequently, an otherwise fit 80-year-old man, who was playing golf only hours before the fall that broke his hip, is unnecessarily weaker and depressed.

Meanwhile the Surrey hospital has decided that a rehabilitation unit is more appropriate for my husband, and so he has gone to the bottom of another waiting list, leaving him stranded on the acute ward in Brighton.

It is hard to believe that the Surrey hospital is passing the buck and that a bed is being unnecessarily blocked in Brighton. If the NHS continues to mismanage its time and resources in this manner, does it think that those with savings will move to the private sector in desperation, rather than see their relatives waste away?

Jane Davies
Tadworth, Surrey

SIR – Newhaven in East Sussex is part of a cluster of four towns and several villages called Seahaven, of which the total population is over 60,000. The out-of-hours doctor service has recently been dramatically scaled back.

The Seahaven out-of-hours service no longer has a car for the doctor, meaning that the needs of those who require home visits are met by a service from Brighton. Eastbourne used to have two cars and now only has one. Bexhill no longer has a car.

A friend of mine from Newhaven was told to go to Brighton to get treatment for her son because the local service no longer operates past 1pm on Sundays, leaving those with illnesses to travel more than 10 miles to see a doctor.

If these changes are accepted without resistance, how do we know that further cost-saving measures won’t be imposed in the months and years to come? They cannot be in the patients’ interests. What would happen in an epidemic, should patients with communicable illnesses be forced to travel on crowded public transport?

Henry Page
Newhaven, East Sussex

Priced out of a pint

SIR – Not all pubs that close are under-used (Leading article, August 13). The high rents that a publican must pay, in addition to tied beer prices with duty and VAT on top, can make his long working hours hardly worthwhile.

A pub shouldn’t have to be packed out every night to make a profit, and sadly pubs that do generate good returns are often not the sort that offer “a fine English ale and a comfortable spot by the fire”.

Developers are willing to pay pub owners high prices for Victorian city-centre properties. Reform of the current planning laws is needed, as is a change in taxation. Different rates for on-premises and off-sales might drive some drinkers away from the supermarkets and back to the pub.

Tim Matthews
London NW1

Dancing hen harriers

SIR – The term “sky-dancing” was not thought up by the RSPB’s marketing team to describe hen harrier displays. The display was aptly christened sky-dancing by the late Frances Hamerstrom, the American ornithologist and writer, during her study of northern harriers in Wisconsin many years ago.

And while I, like Robin Page, am saddened by the plight of our lapwings, far more eggs and chicks are crushed annually by the raking of nesting pastures and by crop-spraying activities than will ever be taken by harriers.

M E Taylor
Chesterfield, Derbyshire

Ahead of the curve

SIR – James Bond pre-empted the Pyongyang Times in highlighting the surfing opportunities provided by the North Korean coast, as portrayed in Die Another Day (2002).

I believe Bond also brought his own equipment with him.

Simon Tull
Doha, Qatar

True colours

SIR – My two young grandchildren have arrived to stay for a few days. They wore the kit of Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid and Lionel Messi of Barcelona.

What does this tell us about the England football team?

Anthony Scouller
Banstead, Surrey

Hell’s Grannies

SIR – Three times in as many weeks I have been nearly wiped out by a “Hell’s Granny” on a mobility scooter being ridden at running pace along a pavement.

Surely these vehicles should be limited to an average walking speed.

Users also seem to assume that they have the right of way. Being both partially sighted and deaf, I neither see nor hear their approach, but it is still my fault.

Charles Fingleton
Bath, Somerset

Next-day delivery

SIR – You report that Royal Mail is bringing forward the last collection time to as early as 9am at nearly half the post boxes in Britain.

This move will be particularly harmful to businesses needing next-day delivery, and comes on top of the exorbitant cost of stamps. Small wonder that the price of Royal Mail shares has plummeted.

John Ley-Morgan
Weston-super-Mare, Somerset

Variations on Bach

SIR – Robert Lightband (Letters, August 13) is right to criticise transcription of Bach’s organ music for other instruments, but I think that Bach would have loved to write for the Steinway if he had been born into a later century.

The Goldberg Variations, for example, sound as well on a good piano as on a harpsichord, particularly when performed by an András Schiff or Glenn Gould.

Nick Perry

The absolute limit

SIR – Can anyone explain why small vans operated by companies such as British Gas have stickers on the back saying “This vehicle is limited to 70mph”?

I thought we all were.

Philip McGahan
Diss, Norfolk

Pigeons play chicken

SIR – Why do pigeons like to sit on rural B‑roads playing a dangerous game of “fly or die”, taking off only at the last second in the face of an approaching vehicle?

Is it down to a lack of parental control, or poor education?

Jeremy Nicholas
Great Bardfield, Essex

A sculpture by Walter Bailey transforms a tree in Sussex killed by Dutch elm disease  Photo: Alamy

6:59AM BST 15 Aug 2014


SIR – Here in Somerset, where elms used to rule the rural scene, they could make a comeback if only the farmers would stop insisting their hedgerows should be low, square and boring.

The elm could still sprout from the hedges given a chance. I have one without a hint of the dreaded Dutch elm disease. Now I am encouraging the little shoots in the lawn to grow for transplanting later, in the hope that they might have inherited some sort of immunity.

Richard Kellaway
Woolavington, Somerset

A Kurdish peshmerga fighter stands close to the Kalak checkpoint in Iraqi-Kurdistan 

7:00AM BST 15 Aug 2014


SIR – I don’t think Britain providing the tools that the Kurds need to fight the “Islamic State” will necessarily protect the “democratic status of Iraq”, as John McTernan concludes (Comment, August 12). If the Kurds fend off the jihadist threat and are left with a much more powerful military presence, it would most probably lead to their trying to establish an independent state in the north of the country.

James A Paton
Billericay, Essex

SIR – The actions of the Islamic State draw attention to the need for a wholesale redrawing of borders. Out of this we should see the creation of a Kurdish state, and territories to offer Christians and Yazidis long-term safe havens.

Dr Michael Paraskos
London SE27

SIR – There are several imperatives for intervening once again in the Middle East. Barbarity and genocide in northern Iraq and Syria represent a strategic threat to international – and British – peace and security. If not checked, chaos and human suffering could rapidly spread, and have a direct impact on us.

This appalling situation is a symptom of a bigger crisis that is fast becoming a global game-changer. As events in Indonesia and Nigeria show, it is not just about the Middle East, which is none the less the centre of gravity.

There is a longer-term threat to us in Britain. The wrongs of the recent past and understandable dread of re-engagement must not blind us to this. Too little now and we court more horrors in the years ahead, even though this may not be what we collectively want to hear.

Getting things “right” this time requires political leaders to convince the public that firm and proportionate action is needed to prevent genocide and chaos from spreading. Action must be genuinely international, even if more of the initial military and logistical action is taken by the United States and Britain, since few others have the experience and capabilities needed, such as Chinook helicopters.

To prevent a domino collapse across states, emergency action must be backed up by international efforts to help put in place a multi-ethnic and multi-religious political framework. We must encourage the international community to stop simply reacting to events and begin to drive them. A sustained effort is required to safeguard viable states and to “quarantine” areas where order has collapsed. This may involve both soft and hard power, but diplomacy must lead and involve the key regional powers.

Perhaps we British citizens need to examine our consciences and be less hasty to blame politicians and recent mistakes. This is a hugely difficult problem with no short-term fixes, but it needs to be tackled.

Brig Nigel Hall
Gen Tim Cross

London W1

SIR – The West is asked to fund food drops, harbour refugees and send in armed forces. The children of the West must sacrifice their lives to “bring peace” to a troubled region. Is it foolish to ask why?

A number of Middle East countries have enormous, well-equiped armed forces. Egypt has almost 470,000 active personnel. It flies some 1,100 combat aircraft and 245 helicopters. Saudi Arabia has 200,000 active personnel and 300 combat aircraft. Where is the need for the intrusion of Western forces?

Excursions into Islamic areas such as Afghanistan show it is unlikely that Western involvement will result in long-term improvement. Far from it. Well-intentioned interference in both Afghanistan and Iraq seems to have increased violence and anti-Western sentiment, leaving resident populations at more risk while acting as a recruitment drive for Muslim terrorist organisations.

John Solomon
Charlton, Hampshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – Raymond Deane (August 15th) comments that Palestinian “civil society” supports a boycott of cultural events linked to the Israeli state. The Gaza Strip is ruled by sharia law and Palestinian women there have no rights, so I wonder what civil society is he referring to?

Did it not strike him as odd that during recent events no female doctors, nurses or hospital staff appeared and that all the women wore veils and none were allowed to speak?

Similarly, Brian Ó Éigeartaigh doesn’t the address the point that the Tricycle Theatre hosted the London Asian Film Festival and received funding from the Indian government, which has been found guilty of abusing human rights in Kashmir. It also takes money from the British government, which some argue is responsible for the deaths of thousands in Iraq – and indeed assert that a former prime minister should be chared with war crimes.

It is worth noting that the Tricycle’s own board and writers state that that war was “illegal”. Yet the Tricycle takes £720,000 in funding from the UK Arts Council; the Jewish Film Festival received £1,400 from the Israeli embassy. So we are now back to the point that if the Tricycle did not audit where the funding comes for from every single event it holds, and instead only picked out the Jewish Film Festival, then that is anti-Semitic.

You cannot claim to be on the side of human rights as Mr Deane does and have no opinion on sharia law. Nor can you justify a cultural boycott when only one event is single out despite other events receiving funding in the same way from sources that would fail the test applied to the Jewish Film Festival. – Yours, etc,


Canary Wharf,


Sir, – I was considering signing up Desmond FitzGerald (August 14th) to a group whose function would be to investigate how we might draw up a priority list of boycott campaigns.

He correctly identifies states who practise human rights abuses, and companies that exploit workers and those that avoid tax payments. But he let himself down just as I looked for his email address. He contends that if one refuses to accept dealings with the Israeli embassy over the slaughter in Gaza one must be anti-Semitic. This (deliberately?)confuses being Jewish with being the Israeli state. As the USA-based liberal Jewish Voice campaign makes clear, “Not in my name”. – Yours, etc,


Professor of Film Studies,

School of Creative


Queen’s University,

Belfast BT7 1NN

Sir, – James Connolly Heron (August 14th) refers to the claim by Count Plunkett in an election pamphlet in 1917 that John Redmond had signified his approval of the execution of the leaders of the Easter Rising in a speech to the House of Commons on May 3rd, 1916 after the prime minister, HH Asquith, announced that Pearse, MacDonagh and Clarke had been executed earlier that day. This claim was, however, a wilful misinterpretation of Redmond’s comments.

John Redmond’s biographer, Denis Gwynn, records that Redmond met Asquith on May 3rd after the executions of Pearse, MacDonagh and Clarke and sought an undertaking from him that no one else would be executed. Asquith replied (according to Redmond) that “he could not give an absolute promise to that effect, but that, except in some very special case, that was his desire and intention”.

On the following day (May 4th), Redmond wrote to Asquith to say that “if any more executions took place [he] would feel bound to denounce them”. This is not the behaviour of a man who approved of the executions.

The clear purpose of Redmond’s comments in the House of Commons was to secure clemency for the rank and file of the rebels, and in this context he needed to make a clear distinction between their actions and those of the leaders.

Representing his words as signifying approval of the execution of the leaders was a nasty election ploy back in 1917, and today it is a disgraceful slur on a good man’s reputation. – Yours, etc,


Vale View Lawn,


Dublin 18

Sir, – Are we really going to define Redmond’s reputation on the strength of an election pamphlet produced by a political opponent? Count Plunkett’s pamphlet correctly quotes Redmond’s observations about the execution of Pearse, MacDonagh and Clarke but it does not tell the full story.What election pamphlet ever did?

In the corridors of power at Westminster, Redmond and the other Home Rule MPs lobbied hard to prevent any executions and they were vilified for doing so. But for their efforts many more may have been executed.

I am neither for nor against honouring Redmond. I am simply pointing that Irish history is a subtle and complex subject. Then as now, there are many diverse opinions about what took place in 1916 and no one can claim there was then or is now, only one legitimate point of view. – Yours, etc,


King Street,



Sir, – I have some reservations about John Bruton’s favoured location regarding the placing of a statue honouring John Redmond. Mr Bruton suggested 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 it should be sited where the Spire now stands, preferably impaled on top. – Yours, etc,


Templeville Road,


Dublin 6W

Sir, – Can I take issue with Jim Roche’s suggestion (August 15th) that airlifts for trapped Yazidis (and Christians) on Mount Sinjar should be carried out exclusively by the UN and NGOs? First of all, the UN reacts to these crises with little perceptible urgency; because military assistance is required, NGOs don’t have the capability to act alone. Mr Roche cites the United States and the UK’s ill-advised invasion of Iraq as a reason why they should be excluded. It is true that their invasion created a vacuum where sectarian hatred has festered, but that is not reason enough to exclude them. I am sure the people trapped on Mount Sinjar would agree.

I also disagree with his broad statement: “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.” Sometimes selective targeting can bring about positive results, as it did when the US bombed strategic targets in the former Yugoslavia, bringing to an abrupt end that particular war. Is he seriously suggesting that the Yazidi and Christian communities who have lived on that land for thousands of years should be left permanently displaced, and Isis left to continue its rampage? Each case should be judged on its merits. – Yours, etc,


Riverside House,


Co Louth

Sir, –So the chickens have finally come home to roost. The GP manpower crisis has at last been recognised and the proposed solution to manage demand for “free GP care” is to restrict access by charging the patient a nominal attendance fee. Despite all the warnings over the years, we have 141 GPs per 100 000 population in Ireland; the corresponding figures for the UK are 192 per 100, 000 and for Germany 216 per 100,000. Ireland has the second lowest number of GPs per capita in the EU.

Even if the Government decides to increase the number of medical school entrants and GP training posts the dividend may not be evident for up to 11 years, as this is the length of time needed to produce a graduate GP from medical school entry. Meanwhile, GP graduates, along with other medical specialists, continue to leave the country in droves because of State policy on investment in general practice, lack of career progression and poor compensation. The situation is so dire that proposals to extend surgery opening hours and extend the range of services any time soon lack any sense of reality.

Charging patients is not the answer. Credible manpower planning and appropriate resource allocation are needed now to retain the responsive service we have and to build for the future. –Yours, etc,


Enniscorthy Medical Centre,

Court Street,


Co Wexford

Sir, – As the owner/manager of a successful IT services company, I have been fortunate in having the support of my bank, which has provided overdraft facilities and has indicated a willingness to lend for other projects. However, the issue is not so much the availability of credit as the cost.

Like most businesses, successful or otherwise, we have constant pressure on margins. When margins are tight, the cost of money is a significant issue. Banks can borrow, either from depositors or the ECB, for rates of less than 1 per cent, but they then seek to lend it to business at rates of between 10 per cent and 12.5 per cent. Unless a business can make a margin greater than 12.5 per cent on goods or services, borrowing to fund a project can clearly be seen to lead to a loss on that project and so the project will not go ahead.

Can anyone explain why efforts at European Central Bank level to stimulate growth through low interest rates are not being reflected in low interest rates on business loans? Oh wait … Yours, etc,


Managing Director,

Carrig Solutions,


Co Wicklow

Sir, – I commend Fred Cummins for his letter (August 14th) about the misuse of simple percentages, though I must say this failing is not confined to journalists. Politicians and others are equally at fault for the spurious use, or misuse, of statistics. A common misconception is that, because an increase from 100 to 200 represents an increase of 100 per cent, a decrease from 200 to 100 is a decrease of 100 per cent. It is no such thing, rather a decrease of 50 per cent. A decrease of 100 per cent always results in zero. A 100 per cent decrease from 200 produces zero, as does a 100 per cent decrease from one million, or any other figure. – Yours, etc,


Somerby Road,


Co Wicklow

Sir, – As summer turns to autumn and homeowners face the prospect of having to pay substantial amounts for water, will fond memories of playful water fights become a fling of the past? – Yours, etc,


Albert Park,


Co Dublin

Sir, – Pádraig Ó Cíobháin (August 15th) baselessly accuses me of wishing for a world in which English is the only language. In fact I merely projected a current trend to its natural conclusion, without bias, and looked for the bright side.

When the world was large and few people travelled widely, many languages evolved in isolated pockets. As the world shrinks rapidly, it makes sense that the number of languages will shrink with it. Those attached to particular minority languages like Irish may lament, but it is almost certain that in time everyone in the world will be fluent in at least one of a handful of “super-languages” used for daily business, the most likely candidates being English, Spanish, Arabic and Mandarin.

Other languages will survive and even thrive locally, but global business and communications networks are already forcing the development of global lingua franca. Advertisements for jobs with international companies frequently demand English as a requirement. This is not because these German or Korean corporate giants dream of a world dominated by Britain or America, but because they recognise the cold pragmatic truth that a unifying language is required, and have chosen one which is already among the most universal and the easiest to learn. There is always sadness when something beautiful fades, but that is the way of things. History is littered with dead languages, but the world goes on. Can the foam-lipped ideologues of Irish please stand down? – Yours, etc,


Shamrock Street,


Dublin 7

Sir, – Pádraig Ó Cíobháin accuses me of being selective in omitting his reference to English being compulsory for the Leaving Certificate, as if this was an issue, and then proceeds to repeat verbatim the whole first stanza of Yeats’s “September 1913”.

Mr Ó Cíobháin says that “in poetry seeming is believing”. It seems to me that while “September 1913” may be finding fault with the Ireland of the time, much of it could also be reinterpreted as being relevant to what went wrong during the Celtic Tiger years. It may also seem, from the repetition, that Yeats was writing a lament, and was at least resigned to fact the romantic Ireland was dead and gone. Is it as true now as in Yeats’s time to ask what kind of Ireland we are going to build for the future. Are we going to repeat the mistake of trying to rebuild the past or are we to do as Yeats concludes? “But let them be, they’re dead and gone / They’re with O’Leary in the grave.” – Yours, etc.




Co Cork

A chara, – The much cited myth of the Tower of Babel is but one story from our wonderfully diverse human history. Another tells of Iatiku the mother goddess of the Acoma tribe in New Mexico. Wearying of constant fighting among the peoples of the earth, she caused them to speak many different languages so that it would not be easy for them to quarrel. She did not equate monolingualism with peaceful co-existence. – Is mise le meas,


Ballyfermot Avenue,

Dublin 10

Sir, – In relation to Frank McDonald’s article “Casino at Marino revamp is a gamble not everyone thinks has paid off”, August 13th) I have visited the Casino many times over the last 25 years. It is a real gem of a building with some delightful architectural quirks. I loved the 1980s renovation as it felt true to the essence of the building. The current redecoration feels like it has been done by an interior designer wishing to put a modern stamp on the building rather than preserve its period beauty. For example, I remember when I was first shown around the Casino, the blue of the dome was pointed out as representing the sky and, as with the sky, you could not pick out its highest point. It is incredible that this “sky” has now been painted white! As for the plastic covering on the beautiful floors, it is another horror.

Surely the purpose of preserving beautiful buildings is to do just that, to preserve them as showpieces of past architecture and decor, not as old buildings dressed up in modern attire. – Yours, etc,


St Lawrence Road,


Irish Independent:

In the early 1990s, whilst on home-leave from Kenya, I developed a two-month long friendship with Cyril Cusack. Our Irish-African connections further cultured the friendship and we left no stone unturned in our twice weekly verbal jousts over afternoon tea in a Dun Laoghaire hotel.

He was, of course, a great Irish stage and screen actor, but not many know that he was also a great philosopher and analyst, particularly on all matters Irish. He had an eagle eye for detail and his fingers were well placed on the pulse of Ireland. To me, he epitomised all the qualities of pure ‘Irishness’.

Not long before our last meeting, he leaned close to my ear and half whispered: “You know James, the problem with us Irish is that we have an identity problem; we don’t quite know who we are, or who or what we want to be; and it seems, we never will!”

I was still in reflection mode on this disturbing observation some months later as I chatted in a Nairobi hotel with a well-respected Irish-American news correspondent. Without warning, she announced: “I presume you are aware, James, that in many circles (all) Ireland is seen as part of, and dependent on the UK.”

Of course, I knew this but did not take to being told it by a journalist. Like many Irish living abroad, I have witnessed this statement as both a remark and an attitude. Browsing Ireland’s mainstream media in recent months, it seems more clear. They were both quite right of course – and more than 20 years on, it seems they still are.

Today, I can’t help but wonder if our membership of the EU is further sapping our ailing identity on one hand whilst the creation of ‘Ireland’s Call’ as a substitute national anthem, and infantile talk of re-joining the (British) Commonwealth looks set to finish the job, on the other! I wonder what Cyril would say.

James Kenny

Paris, France

Fallout from arming Kurds

Everybody’s happy, it appears, for the Kurds to protect the Yazidi from the Islamic extremists who appear determined to exterminate them. The Kurds are saving the US, the UK and France from putting “boots on the ground” so stopping embarrassment to certain political reputations and promises. Obama must be a relieved man. Arming the Kurds is a no-brainer.

But hold on a minute. Aren’t these the same Kurds who want to establish their own state of Kurdistan, which combines portions of a number of other states, including Syria and Turkey? The same Kurds who have fought a number of fierce battles with Turkey on this issue? And isn’t Turkey a key ally of the US and Nato?

So the allies are re-arming a people who are oil-rich and want their own state. Anybody remember the Taliban who were armed to fight the Russians in Afghanistan? Look how that turned out. Moral of the story – sending somebody to do your dirty work can be a very expensive long-term solution.

Liam Cooke


Dublin 17

Keeping your head

Would it be correct to say the prosthetic pilot landed successfully because, even though he lost his arm, he kept his head?

John Williams


Redmond acted in best interests

Unlike some of our so-called “leaders”, John Redmond acted in what he believed to be the best interests of the island. In encouraging Irishmen to fight the King’s war, he was trying to prove to our then-overlords in Britain that we wouldn’t turn on them in the event of our gaining independence.

Had things gone to plan, Redmond would most likely have been the first Prime Minister of neither the “Republic of” nor “Northern” nor “The Free State of” Ireland, but of an Ireland one step closer to a total, united independence, albeit on a lengthened time frame.

Considering, however, that it took 33 years after 1916 for us to become the republic of a bit of the island that we are today, hanging on just that bit longer could have even been a wiser decision.

Cue Murphy’s Law, Easter 1916, and a different letter, though.

Killian Foley-Walsh

Kilkenny City

Women’s rugby deserves reward

Let’s put the achievement of the women’s international rugby team at the World Cup into perspective.

I have no doubt that there are several members of the Irish men’s team who would swap every medal they won in exchange for being able to claim that they were the first Irish team who had taken the scalps of the Kiwis at their own game. Imagine what could be achieved if we gave women’s and girl’s sports the same investment that we have, so far, managed to waste on men’s sports?

Liam Power

Bangor Erris

Co Mayo

How I recall Bacall magic

The death of the beautiful Lauren Bacall reminded me once again of one of my favourite Bogie/Bacall movies ‘To Have and Have Not’. Oh, it’s no wonder I rarely go to the cinema, they just don’t make them like that no more! Just take note of these wonderful Bacall lines. After kissing Bogie a few times, she says: “It’s even better when you help”.

Saying goodnight to Bogie, she turns and says: “If you want me, all you need to do is whistle, you know how to whistle? You put your lips together and. . . blow.”

How sexy is that?

After a big fat gangster gets rough with her, she says to Bogie: “Was you ever bit by a dead bee?”

Another wonderful screen icon has departed. May she rest in peace.

Brian McDevitt


Co Donegal

Lenihan was an inspiration

In a recent interview with this paper, Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown councillor Kate Feeney made an astounding claim that the Dail had not produced a positive role model in the last 20 years. I find myself feeling a combination of bemusement and disbelief at this stark contention made by someone who is barely four months in elected office.

Ms Feeney’s views are misguided and simply wrong. The Dail has had, and continues to have, many role models with Brian Lenihan being one that comes to mind. The late Finance Minister was without doubt a positive role model for people. He was a man of duty who fought a terminal illness to the point that he put the country’s well-being before his own. Indeed, people from right across the political divide and those most vehemently opposed to his policy choices still respected the man trying his upmost in an unspeakably dire political and personal situation.

Does Ms Feeney believe that she would be able to be the positive role model that she stated was lacking in Irish politics? If so, then I wish her the best with that ambition, but I would remind her of Mr Lenihan, who helped inspire countless people fight and continue to fight this dreadful disease.

Michael Reynolds


Co Dublin

Fools who espouse ‘snip cool’

There is a trendy new ‘must have’ procedure being obtained by the cool Irish middle-class feminist husbands, who then proceed to tell everyone about it. The vasectomy has become the manly way to take the pressure off one’s wife as far as contraception responsibility is concerned. Which is all very well, but it sort of has the potential to bring its own pitfalls in a possibly not too uncommon scenario. What happens if the woman becomes pregnant – wouldn’t it be a little awkward to then have to say the ‘snip’ wasn’t successful?

Robert Sullivan


Co Cork

Irish Independent

A girl looks through the window of a minibus as her family prepares to leave the Beit Hanoun neighbourhood in Gaza City

More in Letters (2 of 20 articles)

Letters: Israel has a moral obligation… Read More


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