21 August 2014 Liz

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A wettish day. We go and pick up some plants from Liz

Scrabble: I win, but get just over 400. perhaps Mary will win tomorrow.

108 Games Mary win 57 John 51


Candida Lycett Green – obituary

Candida Lycett Green was an author and journalist who shared with her father, Sir John Betjeman, a passion for conserving England’s architectural heritage

Candida Lycett Green in the garden of her home in Wiltshire in 2002

Candida Lycett Green in the garden of her home in Wiltshire in 2002 Photo: Andrew Crowley

6:22PM BST 20 Aug 2014


Candida Lycett Green, the writer, who has died aged 71, was the daughter of the Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman (1906-84), the editor of his collected letters, and in the 1960s a noted beauty .

She fully shared her father’s commitment to protecting the nation’s vanishing architectural heritage, particularly Victorian, and after his death in 1984 she carried the flame forward with energy and fervour, and never more so than after being diagnosed with cancer in 1999.

Books such as Goodbye London (1972), England: Travels Through An Unwrecked Landscape (1996) and Unwrecked England (2009) flowed from her pen, and for several years she produced a monthly article under the heading “Unwrecked England” for The Oldie magazine. “I am the archetypal Anglophile,” she wrote, “and remain, like Ruskin, ever faithful to ‘blind, tormented, unwearied, marvellous England’. For me it is the most beautiful country in the world.”

Candida Lycett Green in front of Ashdown House, Berkshire, in 1992 (MARTYN GODDARD)

This almost fogeyish persona contrasted with the one presented by the tall, lissom blonde Candida Lycett Green in the 1960s, when she and her Old Etonian husband, Rupert Lycett Green, were at the heart of the London party scene. Candida was an habitué of the Establishment Club, where she was photographed with the actor Terence Stamp; Rupert was the founder of Blades, the fashionable gentlemen’s outfitters in Mayfair. Ossie Clark designed Candida’s dresses, and David Hockney painted her portrait . In a reference to Candida’s reputation for minting sardonic witticisms, the couple were known as “Tailor and Cutter”.

As editor of her father’s letters, Candida Lycett Green did not consider herself a particularly meticulous scholar but rather a voracious snapper-up of his considered and unconsidered trifles. The writer and poet Blake Morrison delighted in her “often dotty and Betjemanic” footnotes, and found that her affectionate linking passages between the sections “add up to a charming memoir in themselves”.

In the first of two hefty volumes, John Betjeman Letters, 1926-1951 (1994), she recalled that all his working life her father had been strapped for cash. In the 1960s, when his fame was well-established, he had sold all his papers and letters — past and future — to the highest bidder, the newly created University of Victoria in British Columbia. In February 1992 Candida travelled to Victoria, and in the university’s McPherson Library “found several corridors of grey four-drawer filing cabinets containing, as it were, my father”.

Closeted in her allotted researcher’s cubbyhole, Candida Lycett Green found her father’s life tumbling out across the table in front of her — “notes from Oxford friends, garage bills, rockets from librarians for not returning books” — and she returned to England with more than 2,000 photocopies of letters to her father (there were about 50,000 altogether).

Once home, she advertised for her father’s outgoing letters and wrote to hundreds of universities and libraries as well as to 420 individuals. The response was huge and humbling. She received hundreds of letters, not just from friends and acquaintances but also from strangers. “It was like Christmas every morning,” she recalled, “and this lasted for at least four months. A whole new life began to evolve.”

The first volume of her father’s letters covered his life in London and Oxford and at his parents’ holiday home at Trebetherick, Cornwall; his marriage to her mother, Penelope Chetwode, and their early years together in Uffington, Ireland and Farnborough. Volume two, John Betjeman Letters, 1951-1984 (1995), began with the family’s move to Wantage in Berkshire and her father taking a small flat at 43 Cloth Fair in the City of London.

Candida admitted that her task as editor had been sadder and harder than before, when for the most part she had stood apart from the people and events described in her father’s correspondence. Now she found that she was fully conscious of, and completely involved with, her subject.

The second volume of letters was also difficult to compile because in the 1960s Betjeman’s abysmal handwriting had become almost indecipherable even to the most practised transcribers. Then there was the sheer volume of documents, which she said would fill an articulated lorry. When she returned to the University of Victoria in British Columbia for a second time, she was faced with distilling the essence of her father’s life from no fewer than 30,000 letters that she had not seen two years before.

Candida Lycett Green in the garden of her home in Wiltshire (Andrew Crowley)

Candida Rose Betjeman was born on September 22 1942 in Dublin, where John Betjeman was planning to spend the war as press attaché to the British representative in the Irish Republic. But the family returned to Britain the following year, and his daughter spent her infancy at Garrards Farm, the rented, chaotic family home near Wantage that Evelyn Waugh complained smelled like a village shop: “oil, cheese, bacon, washing… A horse sleeps in the kitchen.”

Furthermore, the family goat, Snowdrop, was allowed the run of the house, which was hung with Pre-Raphaelite paintings, decorated with William Morris wallpapers and lit solely by oil lamps. The infant’s maternal grandfather, Field Marshal Lord Chetwode, would never stay under his daughter’s roof, always putting up at a pub across the road, unable to stand “those stinkin’ lamps”.

When Candida was three, the family moved again, to the Old Rectory at Farnborough, a remote village on the Berkshire downs that became “my favourite place on earth”. A pretty, fair-haired child, she was her father’s pet; he called her “Wibz”. The girl showed early literary talent, and made her father laugh with an early limerick: “Wibberley Wobberley Wib/She blew up her dad with a squib/And when he was dead/She cut off his head/And scratched on his face with a nib.”

Candida’s mother, Penelope, newly converted to Roman Catholicism, regularly took Candida to Mass while allowing her to remain at a local Anglican primary school, where she mixed with local children and acquired a Berkshire accent which she shed completely only when she was in her teens. As a girl she learned to love the pace of life on horseback, “wandering through villages, the backs of towns… looking into gardens and watching other people’s lives”.

According to her father’s biographer, Bevis Hillier, Candida never forgave her parents for moving from their beautiful Georgian rectory downhill to red-brick Wantage and a Victorian house called The Mead, which she hated. But she was allowed to be naughtier than her contemporaries, mainly on account of the benign neglectfulness of her parents. “I’m sure it came as a shock to John, sometimes, to realise he’d got children,” a neighbour remarked.

After boarding at St Mary’s, Wantage, Candida left in 1957 at the age of 15. She enjoyed extended cultural holidays in Paris and Rome, and in 1958 spent some months with a French family in the Haute-Loire area of central France, attending the local school and complaining about the stern, unbending teaching methods there. The following year she went to Rome to study architecture, and at New Year 1960 returned to Italy again to recover from a failed love affair.

At 17 she was sending reams of “appallingly bad” poetry to her father in England for his critical verdict; she always found him a good listener. After a year’s sojourn in Ireland in 1961, she came out as a debutante, much to the disapproval of her father, who thought she would be better off finding a job. Candida decided in the circumstances to flee the family nest and moved to Oxford, where she studied sculpture at the city’s technical college and, in a greasy-spoon café called the Town and Gown, mooned after Richard Ingrams, with whom she later helped launch Private Eye in London.

Her start in journalism was unpromising. Having persuaded Queen magazine to give her a job as an £8-a-week sub-editor, writing captions under pictures of fur coats and jewellery, she was fired in September 1962 by the owner, Jocelyn Stevens, who had discovered that in the evenings Candida was moonlighting on the Eye, stapling the magazine’s pages together to prepare it for distribution.

Later that autumn she was a guest at a house party at a palazzo in Venice thrown by Simon Hornby, one of her many admirers and subsequently chairman of WH Smith, and there she met and fell in love with the handsome Rupert Lycett Green. Back home, while Candida was working in north Wales for Richard Hughes, author of A High Wind In Jamaica (1929), she and Rupert became engaged. They married in May 1963, and after a honeymoon at Ravello spent a year driving around the world in a customised Land Rover. On their return, her husband founded Blades, with premises in Savile Row. (He sold it in 1981.)

Candida Lycett Green with her father on her wedding day in 1963 (TOPFOTO.CO.UK)

The Lycett Greens set up home in the then deeply unfashionable area of Notting Hill. Candida decorated it in the “boho” style, and installed, in the basement, one of the first country kitchens in London. Its “pine look” commended itself to art directors, who used it as a film location for commercials ranging from Hovis bread to Viyella shirts. The L-shaped drawing room was painted emerald green and furnished with purple sofas.

After its faltering start, Candida’s journalistic career began to flourish. In June 1970 the Evening Standard sent her to Mexico to report on the football World Cup from a woman’s angle. As the decade progressed, she succeeded her father as steward of the “Nooks and Corners” column that he had started in Private Eye, and revealed an unsuspected talent for investigative reporting; she was once threatened with physical violence by a rogue building “developer”, and was the first woman to become a regular Eye contributor.

In 1974 she and her husband moved to Blacklands, near Calne, a large, crumbling Georgian house overlooking the Marlborough downs whose top two floors had been gutted by fire. To help finance the renovation and improvements, Candida sold Hockney’s portrait of her , paying for a tennis court in the garden.

When the couple hosted a 70th birthday party for her father at Blacklands in the blisteringly hot summer of 1976, Candida noted how heavily the poet leaned on his wife’s arm, and that he had become “pretty wobbly”.

It was John Betjeman’s idea that his daughter’s book The Front Garden (1974), compiled with the photographer Christopher Simon Sykes, would make an interesting television film. Candida Lycett Green presented it on Christmas Day 1978, the film having been directed by Eddie Mirzoeff and shot by Philip Bonham-Carter, John Betjeman’s own regular television team. Mirzoeff suggested that she make another film with him, the result being The English Woman and the Horse (1981).

She continued to turn out more books with a rural theme, including A Cottage in the Country (1983), English Cottages (1984), Brilliant Gardens (1989), The Perfect English Country House (1991) and Seaside Resorts (2011). In the 1990s she served on the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England.

In 1997 Candida Lycett Green edited an anthology of her father’s prose, Coming Home, and in 1999 an anthology of prose and verse, Betjeman’s Britain.

After being diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999, she produced The Garden at Highgrove (2000), a book she deliberately signed up for as a project to sustain her and which she shared with her friend the Prince of Wales. Her memoir of growing up in rural Berkshire, The Dangerous Edge of Things, appeared in 2005.

Candida Lycett Green, a lifelong horsewoman, continued to take a week or two off each year, as she had done for 30 years, to ride all over England. She reckoned that she had covered more than 3,000 miles “touring England by horse” . In August 2000 she rode from Yorkshire to north Northumberland, a sponsored ride of 170 miles that raised £125,000 for the Abernethy Cancer Centre at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford, where she was treated. She recounted the journey in another memoir, Over the Hills and Far Away (2002).

She had made plans for her funeral. “Axl [her horse] is going to pull our green trolley cart with a wooden coffin with horseshoes, and there are going to be gospel singers singing O Happy Day and a huge wake, with lots of dancing. I’ve got it all sorted — one might as well.”

She is survived by Rupert Lycett Green and by three daughters and two sons.

Candida Lycett Green, born September 22 1942, died August 19 2014


James VI of Scotland and I of England as painted by John de Critz; 'Since a Scottish king took over

There are two good reasons for Scotland voting for independence, and one for it voting against (Polly Toynbee, Shared values matter more than where the border lies, 19 August). England needs independence as much as Scotland. The continuation of the UK encourages the English establishment to strut around with the delusion that Great Britain is still a very important country. Independence would oblige the establishment to restructure England’s economy and to discover a sustainable role in the world, or else accept England’s sad decline into international insignificance. If Scotland votes against independence, in 20 years another opportunist politician will discover the independence vehicle.

However, before Scotland votes for independence, Alex Salmond should be obliged to confront the XYZ test. If X is Scotland’s exports and Y is Scotland’s imports, the balance, Z, is someone’s debt. The effective resolution of trade debt is the determining factor of national sovereignty. In any independent country, the value of trade debt is resolved in the market value of its own currency. A country without its own currency to resolve the balance of trade issue has no effective independence: as Europe has recently discovered.
Martin London
Henllan, Denbighshire

• Polly Toynbee as usual makes some telling points but still hints that a particular sort of identity pervades Scotland, sprinkled with the inevitable references to saltires and Arbroath. These are on the margins of the real debate. The yes campaign is not simply about the SNP and never was. The Common Weal group offers a much deeper analysis of possibilities offered by a yes vote and practical ways to address several of the deeply entrenched social problems she identifies. A lot of people in both England and Scotland have given up on Westminster politics with good reason. As for Toynbee’s touching faith in a marginalised and increasingly dismantled British social democracy as a reason for voting no, perhaps WH Auden summed that up pretty succinctly too when he wrote: “We would rather be ruined than changed.”

Well, in Scotland, many of us would rather change, vote yes, avoid more ruination and have the possibility at least of getting more progressive policies.
Professor Andrew Watterson

• Our political class is essentially only interested in protecting its own base. If we had visionary political leaders then we wouldn’t still be trying to reform the House of Lords (now over a century in waiting). Instead we would be offering a radical solution: a more federal UK. There should be four equal national parliaments representing the four home unions, with a UK senate sitting over the top which would have responsibilities for foreign affairs, the environment, some elements of the economy including the Bank of England and some of the larger infrastructure needs. We need a political party to grasp the constitutional mess and to come forward in time for next year’s general election, not with piecemeal reforms but an answer as to how the UK should be governed by 2025. The current system, including an unelected upper house, is absurd.
Derek Wyatt (former Labour MP)

• Why should left-of-centre-leaning Scottish referendum voters vote no for a very uncertain social democratic future in the UK, when they can vote yes for near certain and permanent social democracy in Scotland? And why would they vote no when there is the very real threat of leaving the EU after the likely in-out referendum following a Conservative win next year? Perhaps the rump of UK social democrats after Scottish independence might learn to exercise themselves a little more to achieve their aims if they were unable to rely on Scottish voters. In other words, Scottish independence might galvanise the Labour party in the remaining UK into something approaching an effective social democratic party.
John Jones
North Berwick, East Lothian

• I am intrigued by the latest gambit from Better Together campaign which, in the guise of Danny Alexander, is to look to terrify the electorate through highlighting that Scotland’s independence is “forever” and is “irreversible” The number of independent states has risen dramatically in the modern era and since the establishment of the United Nations in 1945 its membership has increased from 51 to 193 – 162 new countries. Of new states that have become UN members since 1945, 30 have done so following a referendum. I am not conscious of any countries which, on achieving their independence, have later sought to return to the country they became independent from – a telling state of affairs.
Alex Orr

• While sympathetic to much of Polly Toynbee’s article, I think there is a basic misunderstanding about the Ruritarian aspect of the UK. Since a Scottish king took over the English throne, Scotland arguably has prior claim on the monarch. Is it not therefore for the Scottish people to decide, in the event of the demise of the UK, whether to allow the monarch to continue to sit in London?
Richard W Russell
Bowmore, Isle of Islay

• Polly Toynbee wonders “what would be left of British pretensions to the wider world if the Scots did vote to go”, but does not elaborate on this interesting idea. For one thing, the Scots would throw out Trident from Faslane, which might then have nowhere to go. For another, a shrunk Britain would surely not continue to be the world’s fourth largest spender on military “defence”. These considerations make Scottish independence appealing, though on balance one would not like the Scots to go.
Harry Davis
Thames Ditton, Surrey

• Alex Salmond will be missing a trick if he fails to point out to David Cameron that mothers’ names have been given on Scottish marriage certificates, as well as on birth and death certificates, since the introduction of compulsory registration of births, marriages and deaths in Scotland in 1855 (Mothers to be named on marriage record ‘for equality’, 19 August). Moreover, married women in Scotland never lose their maiden names, and are registered under both surnames in the relevant indexes in Edinburgh’s Register House, making it far easier for researchers to trace the distaff side of their family tree in Scotland than in England.
Harry D Watson

The news that A4e is terminating its contract to deliver education at 12 London prisons because it cannot make a profit (Report, 13 August) will hit those teaching in the sector hard. In our report Prison Educators: Professionalism Against the Odds, written with the University and College Union, we discovered that the small group of teachers in prisons are older than the average for further education, better qualified but less well paid, with fewer holidays. They are positive about the benefits of education in prison, highly motivated and enthusiastic.

But the view given by those teachers is that prison education is no longer a viable career and is losing its potential to play a positive part in the rehabilitative process. Teachers’ most frequent complaint is about the pressures of constant retendering. As one put it: “Changing employer every three years is not beneficial to a department. It can take up to two years to get properly acquainted and set up smoothly with a new employer. Changing so often is unsettling for staff and does not allow continuity of systems for learners.” Quite possibly this respondent will soon have another employer to notch up.

Education in prisons remains one of the few ways available to change a prisoner’s life trajectory. Yet the process of outsourcing, with its cycle of retendering, budget cuts and ever-greater exhortations to “efficiency”, has led to a regime where prisoners spend ever-greater amounts of time in their cells doing nothing that will help move them on.

Short-contract outsourcing of education for the prison sector has failed to deliver a service that prisoners, prison educators and the public have a right to expect. Prison education is dying a death by a thousand cuts. The prison population is just under 85,000; we send a greater proportion of our population to prison than any other country in Europe and they spend longer incarcerated than in other European countries. Rehabilitation must be the overriding aim of the service, not simply the narrow focus on job skills.
Prof Jane Hurry, Prof Greg Brooks, Margaret Simonot, Anita Wilson, Brian Creese
Centre for education in the criminal justice system, Institute of Education

• I would encourage Sean Lynch to sue the prison service for negligence contributory to his loss of mental health and sight (Report, 20 August). Quantum should include a component for lifetime loss of earnings.
Dr Allan Dodds

Students taking A-levels: 'Newham Sixth Form College's average scores will never be as high as those

In a piece on A-level results (A-level results at first free school sixth form college are envy of top schools, 14 August), you quote the headmaster of the Newham-based 16-18 free school, the London Academy of Excellence, saying: “In Newham, there were hundreds and thousands of young people who wanted to do traditional A-levels. In the past they couldn’t do them because there was no one to provide them. Either they were having to go to school in the surrounding boroughs or – if they couldn’t afford to do that – they were having to take places at colleges here that didn’t provide biology, maths and history. They were having to do BTECs, GNVQs and that type of thing.”

This will have come as quite a surprise to the many thousands of students who have taken A-level subjects at Newham Sixth Form College (NewVIc) over the last 20 years, many of whom have progressed to competitive degree courses in selective universities. Our teachers returning to work yesterday were also somewhat bemused to find their teaching of a very wide range of A-levels (all those offered at LAE plus many more) airbrushed from history.

NewVIc sends more disadvantaged students to university than any other sixth-form provider in England. The college’s university progression rates are very high: 767 students progressed overall in 2013, 99% of all A-level applicants to university progressed and we regularly get students into Russell Group institutions (at least 74 this year) and into Oxbridge (two this year).

Because we don’t cherry-pick the highest-qualified students, our average scores will never be as high as those of more selective providers. But like-for-like, our achievements compare well.
Eddie Playfair
Principal, Newham Sixth Form College, (NewVIc), East London.

POLITICS Peers File 1

Paul Tyler (Letters, 14 August) is wrong to argue that in practice the coalition is in a minority in the Lords. Not so. Most crossbenchers, unwhipped of course, do not regularly vote, and those that do break around 40% for the government. The coalition only has such a strong working majority in the Lords precisely and perversely because it is so weak in the Commons. I was a Labour Lords minister for eight years, and while we had strong majorities of more than 100 in the Commons, we had just 31% of the vote in the Lords. We had to win by persuasion and argument, and legislation was the better for it. A government always gets its business through in the end, rightly, but the scrutiny that comes from a government not having an automatic majority is what makes the Lords so valuable.

Incidentally, throughout my ministerial years, the Lib Dems voted to raise benefits higher than could be afforded. Now those self-same members vote as a highly disciplined coalition to cut deeply those very benefits, for disabled people, for vulnerable children, that previously they insisted loudly were not generous enough. The devastating bedroom tax exists only because they voted for it. What price power?
Patricia Hollis
Labour, House of Lords

A gamekeeper on a Scottish moor: 'Golden plover numbers are being maintained on grouse moors while d

Jim Perrin is wrong to blame those who shoot for the decline of the golden plover (Country diary, 15 August). The Crown Foreshore Wildfowling returns, the best dataset available, show that in the 2013-14 season 70 UK wildfowling clubs shot the grand total of 15 golden plover out of an overwintering population estimated by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds at 420,000.

Four separate studies (Baines et al 2008, Fletcher et al 2010, Tharme et al 2001 and Grant et al 2012) show that breeding success for golden plover is significantly improved by moorland management for grouse shooting and that numbers are being maintained on grouse moors while disappearing elsewhere in Britain. This is a clear example of the contribution to conservation made by shooting.
Christopher Graffius
Director of communications, The British Association for Shooting and Conservation

J S Bach

I think Sarah Lambert is confusing inspiration with the structural “occasion” for the composition of works of art, located in the obligations of patronage and institutional contract (Letters, 18 August). She says “we’ll never know” if artists were “inspired by religion”.

I find it difficult to believe the following were not “inspired”: St John of the Cross, Hildegard of Bingen, John Bunyan, William Blake, Messiah, the Missa Solemnis, Milton, St Matthew Passion (and everything else by Bach); Four Quartets, Charles Williams, CS Lewis, Palestrina, Byrd, Tallis, Elgar, Gerard Manley Hopkins, John Donne, Henry Vaughan, Dante, Dürer…

Sorry, I’ll have to start work, otherwise I could have carried on!
Ben Entwistle
Crewe, Cheshire

• Attentive reviews of Prom 40 on Monday and Prom 42 on Tuesday but what became of Prom 41 ? Could tribute bands to Basie and Ellington and in competition with Clare Teal as compere be a bit infra dig for Guardian reviewers? With hoofers, singers and dancing in the aisles perhaps there was not the expertise to judge this singular event.
David J Handley
Gargrave, North Yorkshire

• What a brilliant clue in Paul’s crossword (20 August) – Leading Tory: “I have come last in poll, schooling ultimately a fiasco” (7,4). Answer: Michael Gove.
Andrew MacLachlan

• I’m all for publishing the league tables after one match (Letters, 20 August). The thing is, can we Villa fans declare now, while we are above the Baggies?
Phil Rhoden
Kidderminster, Worcestershire

• Lauren Bacall was the last of the Hollywood greats, says Deborah Orr (Report, 15 August). Remember, Doris Day is still out there. Dare I mention a man, Kirk Douglas for example?
Myra Gartshore

• I’ve not heard of cats who guide the blind etc (Letters, 18 August). Nor have I heard of any dog clever enough to take the load off its owner by climbing into a neighbour’s gardens to do its business.
Bill Kelly

David Holgate started out as an apprentice letter-cutter in the 1950s. Photograph: EDP

About 10 years ago, when I was trying to learn more about Norwich, I took one of Pevsner’s perambulations through the city. While I was sitting outside the west front of Norwich Cathedral reading the relevant pages in Pevsner, a man came up to me and said: “I think my house is in that book.”

Soon David Holgate revealed, very modestly, that the fine statues recently added to the west front were his work. We walked to his house nearby and, after discovering it was not in the book, I was given a guided tour of his basement studio. Kind to allcomers, certainly.



It is bad enough to be a murdering jihadist but a British one is even more shocking

Sir, That young men brought up and educated in Britain are today proud to commit murder on video is the clearest possible evidence that multiculturalism was a disastrous policy in this country.

It must be utterly eradicated and all Britons encouraged at school and in church, mosque or synagogue to embrace liberal, democratic principles, to support their country and to respect each other.

To do otherwise in these institutions is an abuse of children’s young minds and should be a criminal offence.

The recent debate about the essence of Britishness foundered on our belief in personal liberty and a very British reluctance to be unduly prescriptive. Surely, however, the time has come when we should at least deem certain forms of behaviour anathema to Britain. Among these should be service in primitive, bloodthirsty foreign armies and membership of terrorist organisations. Such activities should result in termination of citizenship. Can they and, if not, why not? We do not want fanatical, bloodthirsty murderers eventually coming home to spread their poison.

Gregory Shenkman
London W8

Sir, The violent and boastful young people who have joined the militant jihadists of Isis appear to be proud of what they are doing, believing it to be divinely ordered and therefore right. And yet in so many triumphalist photographs they all wear balaclavas. Why do they feel it necessary to hide their faces?

Peter Champness
Shipton under Wychwood, Oxon

Sir, I condemn the senseless and barbaric killing of James Foley by the terrorist group Isis. Our immediate thoughts are with the family of Mr Foley and his friends. This brutal killing reminds us of the dangerous environments in which journalists operate around the world and we call on all people to respect the freedom of the press.

If this barbaric killing was not enough then the suggestion that the beheading was carried out by a British citizen is deeply worrying for our nation.

As Muslims we reject terrorism and the evil Isis — they do not act in our name and we abhor anyone who supports them.

The real concern for the Ramadhan Foundation is if these hardened terrorists return to the UK and put our country at risk from further terrorist attacks. We stand ready to support the police and intelligence agencies in their work to defeat terrorism and protect our nation.

Mohammed Shafiq
Ramadhan Foundation

Human rights should not be used as a political rod to beat the European Court

Sir, The European Court of Human Rights awarded no compensation or costs to ten convicted prisoners, and Jack Straw (Opinion Aug 14) infers that the court backed down in the face of the furore that an award would have provoked. An alternative inference is that the court was simply doing its job properly. If by criminal activity you deliberately put yourself in a position where you lose your right to vote, a claim against the government for compensation may be seen as wholly unmeritorious.

Now that Lord Neuberger has stated that our courts will not in future automatically follow the jurisprudence of the ECHR but will “take account” of it, it is a pity that Mr Straw continues to fan popular antipathy towards Strasbourg (sometimes confused with “Europe”). As Daniel Finkelstein makes clear (“Human rights are not a joke. They are vital”, Aug 20), our judges are well able to define what is a human right, as they recently did in regard to whole life sentences, and I suggest that they be allowed to get on with the task. The vital importance and dignity of human rights can be restored only if they cease to be treated as a political football.

Jonathan Playford, QC


Economics may seem to comprehend all human life but some people still find other things to enjoy

Sir, Matt Ridley wonders why some countries in Europe resist the
so-called “Anglo-Saxon model” (“Dismal Europe should embrace free enterprise”, Aug 18). It is because the economy that he refers to is not necessarily the economy that some people feel part of. In some countries they feel that there is more to life than the economy. They feel that they are losing the way of life that made their country special to them. Think of what we love about France and Italy, etc. The way of life is what attracts us.

Matt Ridley’s prescription reminds me of an American Express advert that had the stressed US tourist on a Mexican beach surrounded by a Mexican fisherman and his family playing happily. The tourist tells him that if he borrowed lots of money and invested in a fleet of boats, he could spend his days on the beach playing with his family. The look the already happy fisherman gave him said it all.

Edward Williams

Poole, Dorset

The first step towards removing poverty is to remove the self-perpetuating culture of poverty

Sir, The first step in tackling poverty must be to break up a culture of poverty that is itself reinforcing. For example, in the past in Birkenhead single parenthood was economically driven. Thousands of semi-skilled male jobs in the port and shipyard were wiped out in a generation, and welfare provided a bigger income for single mothers than did partnership with an unemployed man. Now single parenthood is often culturally driven. It’s a norm, and welfare supports that choice. Yet this choice has a huge impact on the number of poor children. There are almost no, repeat no, poor children in households where one parent works full time and one part time.

This is not an attack on anyone who is poor. Rather it aims at a welfare system that both gives rise to poverty and holds the poor in place. It is politicians who should be in the dock; not the all too many victims of their failed policies.

There is a need for a decent minimum and for that minimum to be higher than it is. But calls for reform must be accompanied by a more honest debate on the causes of poverty. There are structural reasons i.e. low wages. Other causes stem from a wider culture than just
welfare which has also imprisoned centre-left politicians against telling as they find it.

Frank Field, MP

House of Commons

Victorian piety does not equip a woman to be a heroine for our times, alas

Sir, Oliver Kamm (Notebook, Aug 19) writes: “On her deathbed, Mrs Reed does not receive Jane’s forgiveness for the cruelty inflicted in her childhood.”

Jane’s actual words are, “I long earnestly to be reconciled to you now: kiss me, aunt . . . you have my full and free forgiveness.” It is Mrs Reed who refuses to ask for forgiveness. That’s what makes this an unconventional deathbed scene; Jane’s attitude is one of pure Victorian piety. Sadly, not a heroine for our times.

Sharon Footerman

London NW4



London red phone boxes, Smithfield Market, London, England

A call to save London’s architectural treasures: red phone boxes at Smithfield Market  Photo: Alamy

6:57AM BST 20 Aug 2014


SIR – You report that, according to Forbes, the business magazine, London is the most influential city in the world. The Victorian Society welcomes this finding, as well as Forbes’s comment that a global city must be “efficient and savvy” with a “strong historical pedigree”.

London’s success depends on its ability to preserve its heritage as an asset for the future. Failure to do so will undermine the city’s ability to differentiate itself from its global competitors.

Ensuring London’s future success and prosperity are good business reasons for readers to support campaigns to protect London’s architectural treasures, such as Smithfield Market, from demolition or insensitive redevelopment.

Chris Costelloe
Director, The Victorian Society
London W4


SIR – The Ecuadorian foreign minister complains that the Government has no real interest in finding a diplomatic solution to Julian Assange’s continued confinement.

One hopes that the Government has none at all. Mr Assange is a fugitive from justice in Sweden, a fellow EU member, where he is accused of sexual offences.

In harbouring Mr Assange, Ecuador has displayed an undiplomatic contempt for British law and a bizarre willingness to believe Mr Assange’s assertion that Sweden – of all places – wants to extradite him to the United States rather than just investigate the charges against him.

If Mr Assange is unwell, he should go to hospital and afterwards to Sweden. This situation is about the law and not human rights or politics.

Gregory Shenkman
London W8

Cannabis-based drugs

SIR – Why is it so difficult for cannabis-derived therapy to be accepted? It is nearly 20 years since my colleagues and I reported the beneficial effect of nabilone (a synthetic cannabinoid) in relieving pain from muscle spasm and alleviating the need to wake and pass urine at night in patients with multiple sclerosis.

Perhaps if it was offered as an alternative therapy it might catch on. After all, the NHS offers acupuncture and homeopathy – so why not try something that actually works?

Dr L S Illis
Lymington, Hampshire

Sainbury’s protest

SIR – In accusing Sainsbury’s of “colluding with a form of terrorism”, Stephen Pollard demonstrates that he has no knowledge of the true course of events at our Holborn Local on Saturday.

What we find most unacceptable is Mr Pollard’s decision to insult a store colleague who, acting with the sole intention of ensuring that the quality of chilled kosher foods on sale was maintained in the face of a perceived threat, temporarily moved them to cold storage elsewhere in the store. Other kosher foods remained on sale in the store throughout the nearby protest, thus entirely scotching the idea that the chilled foods were relocated for any other reason than to preserve the “chill chain”. In other recent supermarket protests, chilled goods have been rendered unfit for sale after they were removed from chillers.

As an entirely non-political organisation, we would never endorse such an action for political purposes. The allegation that a colleague commented “We support Free Gaza” is strongly disputed, and it is in any case absurd to ascribe any such view to Sainsbury’s. The incident has of course been thoroughly investigated.

Although our colleague made a judgment call that has provoked a strong reaction, the action was taken under stress and does not reflect Sainsbury’s policy in any way. We will never discriminate for or against customers, employees or suppliers because of their religion.

Roger Burnley
Retail & Operations Director, Sainsbury’s
London EC1

Holiday buzz

SIR – Having just returned from holiday, I can reveal that the wasps Ann Brooke-Smith is looking for are all on the Greek island of Andros.

Perhaps they’re doing the Grand Tour.

Mark Mortimer
Warminster, Wiltshire

Living with Parkinson’s

SIR – I hope the publicity being given to the fact that Robin Williams had recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease will not result in it being blamed for his suicide. I would suspect that, in view of all his other problems, both mental and financial, the diagnosis would have been, at most, the last straw.

My husband was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at 60. He took up golf and bowls (which he became very good at) and we continued to take holidays abroad and in Britain. Although a broken hip would eventually confine him to a wheelchair, he lived to be 82.

I run the local Parkinson’s UK support group, and have seen for myself how the disease affects people in many different ways. Some of our members do not show obvious symptoms while others have quite severe difficulties. Depression can be connected, but not necessarily.

I hope any readers who find they have Parkinson’s will not view it as an end to life as they know it. My advice is to carry on and enjoy life for as long as possible and remember that support is available.

E J Gingell
Malton, North Yorkshire

Licensed to play

SIR – Forty-eight pages of instructions for a pillow does indeed seem over-cautious. Upon reading the instruction manual for a remote control model helicopter I received from my grandchildren, I discovered the warning: “We recommend that you obtain the assistance of an experienced pilot before attempting to fly our product.”

Simon Funnell
Golant, Cornwall

Imported biscuits

SIR – Michael Deacon objects to the use of the Americanism “cookie” – but surely we imported the word “biscuit” from the French?

D A Greenwood
Barnet, Hertfordshire

Swims, nips and leaves

SIR – I swim in The Serpentine in Hyde Park every day. Last week I felt a nibble at my feet and looked round to see a swan.

A splash and a shout was all that was required for him to beat a hasty retreat.

Robin Hunter-Coddington
London W4

Making mobility scooters safer for all concerned

SIR – I too have been made to jump aside in order to escape from an oncoming mobility scooter.

I am a healthy 65-year-old, but it would only take one collision to render me less so. They are a danger to adults and children alike as they are incredibly heavy.

At the very least, users should have insurance to cover my medical expenses, should I be too slow to dive for cover.

Patricia van Os
Bracknell, Berkshire

SIR – The Government has required that all Class 3 scooters (the 8mph ones) must be registered with the DVLA, which issues them with a registration number. This cannot be displayed because there is nowhere to fix a number plate. It also issues a tax disc, which again is difficult to display. Users do not have to be insured and there is no test to drive one.

This situation will be even more farcical from October, when tax discs disappear, as without a number plate there will be no way of checking that they are taxed or even registered.

Steve Cattell
Grantham, Lincolnshire

SIR – Do those people who criticise the use of these machines realise how courageous we have to be in order to ride on them?

I have used one for years as, since my husband died, it has been my only means of shopping, but the difficulties I encounter make me wonder how much longer I can go on. Vehicles parked across the pavement, dustbins left outside houses and bicycles propped against walls often force me to ride on the road, with lorries and cars driving behind me impatiently. It is a surprise that more of us aren’t involved in road accidents.

More patience on the part of the able-bodied would help.

Monica Brameld
Southwell, Nottinghamshire

6.5 million people in Britain act as carers for older or disabled loved ones Photo: ALAMY (POSED BY MODEL)

7:00AM BST 20 Aug 2014


SIR – We welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment to testing all Government policy to ensure that it supports family life instead of making it more difficult. However, we are concerned that this test appears only to consider one part of family life, the raising of young children, rather than addressing families’ growing responsibilities for older or disabled relatives.

All of us will, at some point, care for an ageing parent or an ill relative, or need that care ourselves from our loved ones. Too often, when a frail relative comes out of hospital or a partner has a stroke, families suddenly find that, unlike with child care, public services and workplaces aren’t set up to support them in providing care, which adds to the strain on them.

The 6.5 million people in Britain caring for older or disabled loved ones are a clear demonstration of the strength of family life. It is vital that social security, health and care services and workplace rights are tested to ensure they support caring for ageing parents and disabled relatives, rather than making it harder to do so.

Helena Herklots
Chief Executive, Carers UK
London SE1

SIR – How can we accept David Cameron’s declaration that “Nothing matters more than family”, when not so long ago he had praised the value of marriage, then redefined it? His legislation has already devalued the roles of fatherhood and motherhood as the time-honoured foundations of the nuclear family.

Peter Goodchild
Cranbrook, Kent

SIR – Can British citizens married to non-EU spouses now expect David Cameron to review the onerous and discriminatory visa requirements for these spouses so that more families can enjoy the family values that he is seeking to promote?

Susan Gorton
Abingdon, Oxfordshire

SIR – When deciding whether policy decisions are family-friendly, will David Cameron take into account that we are living in a society that separates young mothers from their infants at an ever-earlier age, often to the detriment of the emotional well-being of mother and child?

This is a society that encourages “aspirational” women to return to work with financial rewards, while denying any assistance to young mothers who would prefer to stay at home and provide their own child care in the natural, traditional way. Putting women’s contribution to the economy above their role at the heart of the family is not family-friendly.

Andrea Bates
Enstone, Oxfordshire

SIR – The decision to start a family is a lifestyle choice. People should not have children, particularly large families, and then expect the state to fund them.

Clifford Baxter
Wareham, Dorset

Irish Times:

Sir, – Could Fintan O’Toole (“160,000 reasons to take action on abortion”, Opinion, August 19th) not ask about the thousands of young men and women, boys, girls and infants, who would today be enjoying what this wonderful world has to give if his 160,000 women had not gone (abroad) for abortion? Why is it so easy to focus on one of the two people involved and shut one’s eyes tight to the existence of the other (as if he/she were merely some sort of threatening growth)? Vituperation is not an answer. – Yours, etc,


Weston Park,

Dundrum, Dublin 14.

Sir, – The subheading on Fintan O Toole’s piece reads “Constitutional provisions on abortion are just the detritus of the ecstatic picnic of theocracy’s final fling”.What a way with words Fintan surely has! However it is worth noting that the word theocracy originates from a Greek word meaning “the rule of God”. It was first coined by Josephus Flavius, a first-century scholar and historian.He used it to describe the form of government favoured by the Jewish population, as opposed to the other forms predominant at the time – monarchy, aristocracy and anarchy. A question for people to ponder is not so much do we still believe in “the rule of God”, but rather do we still believe in “God”. Only then can we start to make sense of the moral questions of our times. – Yours, etc,


Linden Avenue,

Beaumont, Cork.

Sir, – I agree with Ruth Cullen (August 19th) – this situation has resulted in a tiny, premature baby fighting for its life in an incubator. This baby has been denied the physical contact so desperately needed in the crucial early weeks of its life, will never be breastfed, will never know who its parents are (other than that their father was a rapist and their mother tried to kill herself), and will probably struggle with a variety of physical and mental difficulties for the rest of its life.

Is this preferable to an eight-week-old foetus being aborted before its nervous system has developed? Because this is what it comes down to. If you belief life, any life, is always better than none, then you should be thankful that the child exists at all (it would also be nice if someone would step up and adopt the poor little mite). So before we start pointing fingers at other people’s “choices”, let us remember that the mother’s actual preferred choice was either termination or suicide. In neither of these cases would the child have survived (although it probably would have suffered less).

So be thankful for this outcome. It’s what you wanted when you voted against allowing women in difficult circumstances any choices at all. Unless, of course, you’d prefer to get out the straitjackets and feeding tubes? – Yours, etc,




Sir, – All this hand-wringing about abortion and other social issues is so typically Irish and makes one fear that despite everything over the last six years, nothing has changed. I think we all know that there won’t be any meaningful reform or change as long as Enda Kenny’s generation of the grey old men from the 1970s is still in control.

The 1937 Constitution is clearly not fit for purpose and was written for an Ireland in a period of time that has no connection to the reality of how Irish people live today. It utterly lacks the classical simplicity of the US or French constitutions which have both stood the test of time and been able to adapt to societal changes. A constitution is not the place to enter sections concerning social issues like marriage, abortion, gay rights or the role of women or men in society. These are issues that should be removed and dealt with by legislation that reflects the popular will of the people at any given point in time and can be changed accordingly.

If you are against gay marriage then don’t marry a gay person and their right to marry won’t affect your life in any way. Similarly if you object to abortion for personal or religious reasons then you won’t have an abortion no matter what the circumstances of your crisis pregnancy. But that doesn’t give you the right to deny another women to make her own decision if she finds herself with a crisis pregnancy.

Of course if the guilt and responsibility for causing a crisis pregnancy in the first place were equally shared with the man who didn’t use contraception, I’m sure the law would be changed far quicker.

These are actually simple issues and yes or no are perfectly reasonable stances to take. It’s about time Irish people stopped looking for the cute hoor solution that solves nothing and faced these issues like grown adults. – Yours, etc,


Canary Wharf,


Sir, – While Fintan O’Toole expresses eloquently the moral indignation any sentient person might feel in relation to the fate of the young woman at the centre of the current abortion debate, I believe he is seriously wrong in attributing the blame for this state of affairs on the Constitution, and on what he refers to as “a long-discarded ideology.”

It is a convenient shorthand for some to blame the Catholic Church for everything from educational trauma to sexual deviance. However, looking at history in the long term, these problems and others, which form part of what we might categorise generally as human suffering, predate the Catholic Church. Indeed the brutality of non-Christian times reaches unimaginable extremes, for example, killing infants by exposure, as the Romans did. The activities of the Islamic State forces in present times should give Mr O’Toole pause for thought.

The facts support the view that the influence of Christianity brought a degree of civilisation that tempered justice with mercy. I believe Mr O’Toole is sadly deluded in thinking that tinkering with the Constitution and getting rid of Christianity would solve any problems. In the real world, suffering is part and parcel of everyone’s life and Christianity is the only “ideology” which makes sense of it. – Yours, etc,


Granville Avenue,



Sir, – I wish to take issue with a number of claims made by Isolde Goggin (“General practitioners operate much like any other small business”, Opinion & Analysis, August 18th).

First, the National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP), which represents over 1,000 GPs, has been excluded from talks with the Department of Health, which would in itself seem to be anti-competitive behaviour. To endorse one organisation over another surely raises questions about the impartiality of the department in this area.

Second, the primary motivation of GPs is the desire to provide a first-class, safe and effective service at primary care level. The ability to be able to negotiate collectively is not so GPs can go on strike or withdraw services but to allow GPs to have a voice on behalf of their patients at the highest levels, to ensure that the poor, the elderly, the socially deprived and most vulnerable in our society can continue to access health in their community safely and effectively.

Third, general practice is not a trading business in the traditional sense of the word as 80 per cent of its income comes from one source, namely the HSE. As a result of Fempi (Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest), GPs have had their gross income cut by 40 per cent in the last four years.

This is not a 40 per cent salary reduction but 40 per cent of resources provided by the State to provide a health service at primary care level. This funding is there to provide infrastructure, equipment, heat, light, staffing, insurance, etc. As stated previously, these are gross payment reductions and actually equate to a net 80 per cent reduction in income.

If the Government had slashed the hospital budget to the same degree half the hospitals in Ireland would be now closed. But the Government doesn’t cut the hospital budget to the same degree because the employees of these organisations are protected by their unions.

Fourth, Ms Goggin claims that GP fees rose by 78 per cent over the seven-year period leading up to 2008 but this figure is quoted out of context. Indeed resourcing in general practice did rise over this period but GPs were asked to do much, much more for the money.

For example, free GP care was provided for the over-70s and numerous other services were provided by GPs in a primary care setting over those years. Unfortunately these services are now being cut or have been eliminated because of a lack of funding.

Unlike other businesses, general practice is unable to cut costs and continue to provide a safe service. An increasing number of patients are presenting in general practice while draconian cuts are being implemented, which means that it is the patients that suffer because GPs cannot fund the service themselves.

The Competition Authority has conveniently ignored that the GMS scheme is by its very nature anti-competitive. The idea that one supplier can impose fees by diktat to businesses without the ability to negotiate is anti-competitive by its nature. What other business could possibly survive in this type of economic tyranny?

The National Association of General Practitioners represents GPs but by extension is also trying to protect the poor, the vulnerable and the socially deprived in our society. We will continue to highlight the failures of successive governments to address the key issues in providing a safe, effective service at a primary care level for all the people of Ireland, not just the well-off. – Yours, etc,


Chief Executive,

National Association

of General Practitioners,

Kildare Street,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – Ms Goggin believes that currently GPs decide: 1) “where to locate their practice”, but the new contract stipulates that GPs shall work in Primary Care Centres where available; 2) “how much to invest in their practice facilities”, yet the new contract insists that GPs have a state of the art IT system, and lists the various types of rooms that must be provided, including a dedicated mother and baby feeding and changing room; 3) “who to employ”, yet the contract says that any locum employed by GPs must be approved by the HSE first; 4) “whether or not to enter into partnerships with other GPs or medical professionals”, yet the new contract decrees that GPs must be members of the local Primary Care Team.

What is proposed is not a new GMS contract, but an entirely new primary care contract, which will radically change the doctor-patient relationship as we know it. – Yours, etc,


The Surgery,

Market Street,


Co Kerry.

Sir, – Philip Donnelly (August 18th) takes me to task for suggesting that Ireland should be slow to celebrate John Redmond’s role as recruiter for the British army in the first World War. He also accuses me of dishonouring the memory of the Irish soldiers who died. I have made it absolutely clear that I believe that commemorating those tragic deaths is right and fitting.

Honouring “the cause”, however, is another matter.

The first World War was fought to further the expansion and power of the British Empire – and for nothing else. Ireland never forgot the dead of the first Word War – that would have been a physical impossibility. It just did not celebrate Irish slaughter in Britain’s interest and it never should.

Blame for the more than 16 million deaths that resulted from this conflict, the vast majority of them in each country recruited from among the ranks of young working class men and agricultural labourers, cannot be attributed to Germany alone. France, Russia, Austria-Hungary, Italy and Turkey all had their own axes to grind, as of course did Britain, which dominated the world through its sea power and had an interest in crushing Germany before it became too threatening a rival.

James Connolly, the founding father of Irish Labour, in very precise terms summed up the aims of British prime minister Asquith in August 1914. “The British capitalist class have planned this colossal crime in order to ensure its uninterrupted domination of the commerce of the world. To achieve that end it is prepared to bathe a continent in blood, to kill off the flower of the manhood of the three most civilised great nations of Europe . . . Yes, this war is the war of a pirate upon the German nation.” (Irish Worker, August 29th, 1914)

Finally I’d like to assure Mr Donnelly that I have been active in Labour politics since I was a teenager and I have never felt the need for a green flag. Quite the contrary. My objection to the first World War is that it was a conflict in which the poor in every country were admonished that they must “do their duty” and were then sacrificed in vast numbers for the schemes of generals and “statesmen”. – Yours, etc,


Dáil Eireann,

Leinster House,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – I was surprised at the piece “Olivia O’Leary leads campaign to save grassy Co Kilkenny towpath” (August 19th). I find it strange that a person of Ms O’Leary’s obvious intellect would take such an elitist approach to the proposal to restore a narrow strip of the derelict towpath along the Barrow navigation. I’ve seen “nimbyism” before, but never in relation to amenities for families such as proposed by Waterways Ireland for this overgrown towpath.

When the motorway bridge was proposed over the Broadmeadows estuary near Swords in Co Dublin, it was predicted that hundreds of swans would die as they crashed into a bridge that hadn’t been there when they last looked. I cycled under that bridge a few weeks back, protected from speeding traffic only by the strip of pink tarmac on which I rode, and I didn’t see a single dead swan anywhere. I did, however, dream of a few long routes in Ireland where I could cycle or walk in safety, and the Barrow line would fit that bill nicely.

Why would anyone object to the kind of cycling and walking infrastructure that is normal in all civilised countries but a rarity here? What is the problem with providing a safe place for families to walk, cycle and push buggies in a safe, traffic-free environment? Why would someone who purports to love the countryside consider that it should be available only to an elite few? Why should people in wheelchairs be excluded from enjoying a long trek by the beautiful Barrow? What is wrong with high-spending cycling and walking tourists?

We own very few linear corridors in Ireland that are suitable for the provision of infrastructure that is the norm elsewhere. The few canals and the disused railways lines that haven’t been lost to squatters could make this a better country for its inhabitants and a destination for the millions of tourists that go where the trails are, in Germany, Hungary and along the Danube and other European rivers. We need to welcome this investment by Waterways Ireland with open arms.

Cyclists and walkers tend to be sensitive nature lovers, so I wouldn’t worry too much about their impact on the wildlife; like the swans at Swords, the birds and animals will adapt. The nimbys, I fear, may take a little longer. – Yours, etc,



Boyle, Co Roscommon.

Sir, – The proposal of Dr Chris Luke (August 19th) to remove the HPAT ( Health Professions Admission Test) as a measure to persuade newly qualified doctors to remain in Ireland highlights the ongoing disconnect between non-consultant hospital doctors and their senior colleagues in medical and management positions.

It is disappointing that the debate on how best to stem the outflow of medics from Ireland continues to focus on the use of mandatory service or short-term “bargaining chips”.

Addressing poor training conditions, failures to implement mandatory working-hour limits and the disproportionate reduction in salary for new-entrant consultants should be the priorities of our senior colleagues.

Until the welfare of non-consultant hospital doctors and newly appointed consultants is made a priority, rather than efforts to restrict movement in a global market, doctors will continue to exit the Irish system in large numbers in favour of improved working conditions. – Yours, etc,


Lower Rathmines Road,

Dublin 6.

A chara, – Dr Chris Luke’s suggestion to get would-be medical students to sign-up to a six-month stint in areas of medical manpower shortage must surely be a runner, if for no other reason than its simplicity.

A failure to live up to the commitment, on the part of the newly qualified doctor, might be discouraged by a financial sanction, such as the reimbursement to the State of the cost of that medical education. – Is mise,


Ballycasey Manor,


Co Clare.

Sir, – Would a 100 per cent decrease in letters about statistics (August 19th) lead to a corresponding increase in letters about damned lies? – Yours, etc,


Glendale Park, Dublin 12.

Sir, – Is it not time to end the meaningless practice of third and fourth place play-offs in many sporting competitions and instead simply award a bronze medal to the affected competitors, just as they do in boxing? – Yours, etc,


Dunmore Road,


Irish Independent:

All this hand wringing about abortion and other social issues is so typically Irish and makes one fear that despite everything over the last six years, nothing has changed.

I think we all know that there won’t be any meaningful reform or change as long as Enda Kenny‘s generation of the grey old men from the 1970s is still in control. Mr Kenny is nothing if not the political son of Liam Cosgrave.

The 1937 Constitution is clearly not fit for purpose and was written for an Ireland in a period of time that has no connection to the reality of how Irish people live today.

It lacks the classical simplicity of the US or French constitutions, which have both stood the test of time and have been able to adapt to societal changes.

A constitution is not the place to enter clauses concerning social issues like marriage, abortion, gay rights or the role of women or men in society. These are issues that should be removed and dealt with by legislation that reflects the popular will of the people at any given point in time and can be changed accordingly.

If you are against gay marriage, then don’t marry a gay person, and their right to marry won’t affect your life in any way.Similarly, if you object to abortion for personal or religious reasons, then you won’t have an abortion, no matter what the circumstances of your crisis pregnancy. But that doesn’t give you the right to deny another women her right to make her own decision if she finds herself with a crisis pregnancy.

Desmond FitzGerald

Canary Wharf



Get the excuses in early

It is a week-and-a half away and already excuses are being put forward in case Dublin should defeat Donegal in the SFC semi-final

It’s the sponsorship, it’s the professional approach, it’s the physical fitness, it’s Dublin being unfair in playing their opponents with 15 players on the field.

Go back to the 1970s and see how fair the great Kerry teams were when they completely dominated Gaelic football. Remember in 1974 a Dublin team from B/Division won the All-Ireland when they defeated Galway.On their way to victory, they defeated the holders of the Sam Maguire when they beat Cork in the semi-final.

Back then, it was the great Kevin Heffernan who lifted Gaelic football from the doldrums and created a following that has lasted to this day, There was no big sponsorship – it was brains and heart that saw the boys in blue show the rest of Ireland how the game should be played.

In fairness to the Kerry team of 1975, they beat us at our own game – they learned from the Dubs about the man running off the ball, the short hand pass, and, above all else, total discipline, total commitment.

So before I hear any more complaining about how well this Dublin team is looked after, remember that Gaelic football is a simple game – it takes belief and effective execution of a team’s skills.

Don’t moan if you are defeated because your players stayed in their own half for the whole of the match.

In short, stop whining and get on with the game!

Fred Molloy

Dublin 15


Scant regard for human life

“We are led by the least of us,” said US writer Terence McKenna.

People are being killed on this planet at an alarming rate.

IS is rampaging through the deserts of the Middle East, people are dying in the conflict in Gaza, blood is being shed in Ukraine, and these are just the current news stories.

The civil war is still, I presume, raging in Syria, and Africa has so many different conflicts that you cannot keep up with them. And you can be fairly sure that there are some conflicts we haven’t even heard of.

It seems that there is a very little value placed on human life.

I think we may be a little arrogant to suggest that man is the most intelligent animal on the planet – mice seem to have more cop on!

Dermot Ryan

Attymon, Co Galway


Pylon plan will create jobs

Ralph Riegel tells us that Tour de France and Giro d’Italia star Sean Kelly has joined a local campaign (CAP) to oppose the proposed pylon grid which will eventually link Munster to Leinster (Irish Independent, August 18).

One wonders why Mr Riegel mentioned either the Tour or the Giro, as Mr Kelly won neither, though he did win the Veulta, the Tour of Spain, which the article did not mention.

This pylon plan is a good one and will bring jobs and investment into parts of rural Ireland which have been suffering for too long.

Declan Carty

Foulksmills, Co Wexford


Pope is made of sterner stuff

For some time now, some commentators have been making invidious, childish comparisons between the relative merits of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. In reality, both men bring their own unique personalities to the “job”.

Pope Benedict came across as a gentle, quiet theologian and scholar, while Pope Francis appears to have a more outgoing personality. However, never was there a case of outward appearances being more deceptive.

While Pope Benedict, as the scholar, was reluctant to use the ‘big stick’, Pope Francis seems to be made of sterner stuff.

What has escaped the attention of many commentators is that in his relatively short pontificate to date, Pope Francis has enforced two excommunications. The first was of the Australian priest, Fr Greg Reynolds. He was excommunicated by Pope Francis because he campaigned for women priests.

The second was the leader of the Austrian “We Are Church” faction, Martha Heizer. She was excommunicated by Pope Francis for supporting women priests and married clergy.

Eric Conway

Navan, Co Meath


What planet is Howlin on?

Brendan Howlin is in favour of the reintroduction of payments to recognise high performance.

Is he living on the same planet as the rest of us?

You pay high salaries to people to get high performance, so why go overboard and give them something further? People are recruited to work to the best of their ability – if they don’t, they should be let go, not given a bonus for something they should have been doing in the first place.

John Coleman

Farmhill Drive, Dublin 14


More to craft beer than IPA

I would like to congratulate your paper for its coverage of the beers being produced in Ireland today and the stories behind the brewers that make them.

However, after reading the piece by Liam Campbell (Irish Independent, August 16), I wouldn’t want your readers to think that the range of craft beers being made today solely consists of India Pale Ales (IPAs). There’s a vibrant beer scene in Ireland and the IPA is but just one style, albeit a popular one.

There’s a wide range of beer styles, from lager to porters and stout right through to barley wine and a number of beers aged in whiskey barrels. These are made by a growing number of small, independent producers. Some are already winning international awards and more will undoubtedly follow.

It is important that these brewers continue to receive coverage in the press. This will encourage people not only to seek them out but to actually try their beers.

Aidan Sweeney

Ballsbridge, Dublin 4

Irish Independent


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