Out and about

9 September 2014 Out and About

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A sunny but cool day. I potter around go to the Bank the Co op and the Post Office. Meg rings

Mary’s back not much better today, pie for tea and her back pain is still there.


Professor Dame Julia Polak – obituary

Professor Dame Julia Polak was a pathologist whose own health problems led her to research growing new organs from stem cells

Professor Dame Julia Polak

Professor Dame Julia Polak Photo: Roger Taylor

5:54PM BST 08 Sep 2014


Professor Dame Julia Polak, who has died aged 75, did pioneering work in histochemistry (concerned with the chemical composition of the cells and tissues of the body) and later led research into using stem-cell technology to produce artificial organs for implantation — after she herself had undergone a heart and lung transplant.

She had been working at Harefield Hospital with the eminent surgeon Professor Sir Magdi Yacoub on the reasons for rejection in transplant surgery when she became seriously ill. She had always put her breathlessness down to asthma, but by April 1995 she found breathing so difficult that she was unable to sleep lying down. When she eventually agreed to be examined by a colleague at Hammersmith Hospital, she was found to have severe heart failure caused by pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the lungs) — the very disease that she had been studying in Yacoub’s patients.

Told by Yacoub that she needed a lung transplant, she resisted at first, knowing the risks, but was eventually persuaded that it was her only chance. For nearly two months she waited in intensive care for a suitable donor to be found. The call came at 2am on a weekend visit home. She was rushed into Harefield Hospital, where Yacoub performed a “domino transplant” — replacing her heart and lungs with those of a donor and transplanting her heart into another patient.

As with many transplant patients, her recovery was impeded by infection and rejection, but after three months her condition began to stabilise. Once she was on her feet again, Julia Polak made it her life’s work to find an alternative, more reliable, solution for people with incurable lung disease.

She decided to redirect her research to “tissue engineering”, with the aim of using stem cells to grow new tissue and organs — work which, if successful, could help to offset the shortage of donor organs and overcome the problem of rejection. Two months after her operation she set up the Julia Polak Lung Transplant Fund and subsequently founded the Imperial College Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine Centre, becoming its Professor in 1997.

In 2004 she announced that she and her team had succeeded in growing brain and lung tissue by manipulating embryonic stem cells, using a process that converts the cells into mature small-airway epithelial cells, which line the part of the lung where oxygen is absorbed and carbon dioxide is excreted. Their achievement has raised hopes that before long it might be possible to create a functioning “lung” for regenerative purposes, using a man-made scaffold for the tissue to grow around.

Memorably, Julia Polak produced her own diseased lungs for inspection at a demonstration at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School at Hammersmith Hospital, where she was a professor. “My lungs were not of any use so I studied them,” she recalled matter-of-factly, but she observed that they were the “worst case” of pulmonary hypertension she had ever seen.

Her experiences inspired a novel, Intensive Care, by Rosemary Friedman, published in 2001 to raise funds for research on tissue repair and regeneration. Julia Polak was delighted with her fictional depiction: “It is so funny, my character has been transformed into a tall and leggy doctor,” she said. “You should see me. I am short and fat.”

At the time of her death Julia Polak was one of the world’s longest-surviving lung transplant patients.

Julia Margaret Polak was born on June 26 1939 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where her Jewish grandparents had emigrated from Eastern Europe to escape persecution. After qualifying in Medicine at the University of Buenos Aires in 1961, she decided to specialise in pathology; and in 1968, with her husband and fellow doctor Daniel Catovsky (who would himself achieve eminence as a world authority on chronic adult leukaemias) and their first child, she moved to Britain to do graduate studies at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School at Hammersmith Hospital. She eventually became head of the Histochemistry department and Professor of Endocrine Pathology at the medical school (now part of Imperial College, London).

Julia Polak was one of the first researchers to demonstrate the existence of a hormone system in the gut, and she identified the cellular origins of several hormones in the internal organs. She was also part of the team that discovered how nitric oxide is made in cells throughout the body and helps the cells communicate with each other .

She moved on to lungs in the mid-1980s, after discovering that the gut and the lung have a similar cell structure. Needing lung tissue to work on, she approached Magdi Yacoub, to see if he was interested in collaborating. It was the beginning of a close working relationship, and Yacoub would become a prominent member of her team at the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine Centre.

The author of some 1,000 original papers, 115 review articles and editor or author of 25 books, Julia Polak was one of the most widely cited researchers in her field. She served on several national and international tissue engineering and stem cell advisory panels, and was the European editor of the journal Tissue Engineering.

She was appointed DBE in 2003.

Julia Polak is survived by her husband and by two sons. A daughter, Marina, a barrister, was killed by a motorcyclist while crossing a road in London in 2011. Her mother took some comfort from the fact that before her death Marina had signed up to the organ donor scheme, and as a result improved the lives of five people by donating her organs.

Professor Dame Julia Polak, born June 26 1939, died August 11 2014


Yes and No supporters in the Grassmarket, Edinburgh Yes and No supporters in the Grassmarket, Edinburgh. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Living as a Scotsman in Ireland I am following the referendum debate as best I can (Report, 1 September). However, one thing strikes me about the whole debate. The argument, for or against, seems to revolve around money and finance in one form or another. Here in Ireland, as the country gears up to celebrate its failed attempt at independence in 1916, where its leaders are near martyrs, it got me thinking what their take on our selfish debate would be. Perhaps one of them might have penned a letter such as this from his prison cell the night before his execution …

“Dear voter, So, how have you woken up the morning after? Have you woken in shame? Have you followed Alistair Darling? Did you put yourself first? Justifying your treasonous act by wanting to believe that independence would come at a personal cost. A cost in blood and tears, in splattered brains and torn sinew, crushed bone and broken hearts, like nearly every other country on the face of the Earth had to endure for independence. No? At what cost then? At best a few pounds in your pocket. Shame on you.

“Listen to them starting to turn, creaking slowly, before starting to spin- in their graves – all those heroes over all those centuries, from all those countries who had to wage war to raise their own flag, sing their own song. My God, all you had to do was get out your warm bed, and make a cross on a piece of paper. Shame on you if you voted no. It’s not about money. It’s about being us, standing on our own two feet, being in charge of our own destiny, making our own decisions. Who knows we might even take to the sports field with pride for once. It’s about being bloody Scottish not British. So how will you waken up the next morning? With your head held high, I hope.”
Martin Loomes
Galway, Ireland

• Next week, Scotland’s voice will be heard all over the world. People from all walks of life will express themselves about over how they feel about their country’s immediate future. Such a strong national identity, powerful cultural heritage, endless natural resources, as well as a strong labour force can only lead in one direction. Do not be afraid of change, any change for the better brings maturity and within maturity one reaches improvement and self-balance.

The world will be watching you, a proud nation that was driven to the loss of liberty by a bunch of lords who did not pay any attention to the peoples’ real needs. That was in 1707. Now, the time is different; in 2014 all Scots, and those feeling Scottish at heart, are sensible and hopeful enough to freely decide their destinies. On the one hand to be ruled by a body that does not fulfil vital needs, since it doesn’t show consideration or predisposition for improving the standards of living in Scotland. Or, on the other hand, to have the golden chance to be yourself: a free, independent and respected individual with a capacity to make decisions which would benefit your country and its inhabitants.

Now is the time to see the light; to see things right, to set things right. Think positively and you will get endless rewards. Scotland deserves the best. It is too proud a nation to be left as a mere “English territory” with a limited capacity of decision-making. Actually, I am in love with this country, so one only expects the best to happen. Do not disappoint the world, but, above all, be fair and love yourself.
Marta Vallbona
Glasgow and Barcelona

• Simon Jenkins says, “I would vote yes because the no campaign has offered merely stasis” (Comment, 5 September). Scotland would not be the first to become a country independent from Britain and succeed. Many former colonies have gone their own way. Trinidad and Tobago (my country of origin) became independent in1962 and a republic run entirely by its own polyethnic citizens. It set up its own central bank, printed its own currency and saw its GDP rise exponentially during the five decades of its freedom. Its GDP per capita now stands at over £11,000; higher than any continental Latin American country. Its unemployment rate is 3.6% and the population is a mere 1.25 million. Scotland should vote yes and leap out of stasis.

Dr Louis Quesnel


• Dear Scotland, I fear it’s too late, and you’ve decided, but really I would prefer that you didn’t leave the union. I speak as a Brit who doesn’t want to be reduced to being an Englishman. You won’t understand this because you’ve always been happy within your Scottish skin. This is my problem – I can hear you say it – and I’ll get used to it in time, that’s true, and who knows, maybe I’ll even look upon the cross of Saint George as something other than a stranger, but I’ll feel diminished. You may not feel British, but equally I don’t feel entirely English. I’m bigger than that – you, the Welsh and the Northern Irish make me feel bigger than that.

It’s possible that what you think of as Englishness is something that I also don’t recognise. I’m not posh. I didn’t go to private school. I believe in social justice. I don’t vote Tory. I don’t patronise the Celts, or anyone else. I try to be a good citizen, I don’t want to leave Europe (that’s two unions I support). What you rail against, I rail against. Together we are better able to fight the forces of conservatism – the conservatism that has been foisted upon me as it has upon you – the poll tax, the bedroom tax, the sneering supercilious superiority of an unrepresentative elite. The governments you didn’t vote for are the governments I didn’t vote for. Together we are brothers and sisters; apart we’re citizens of different countries.

You’ll still be there, where you have always been, but it will still feel like I’ve been divorced in a process in which I wasn’t allowed a say – which I guess is why I’m writing. You’ve moved on, you need to find yourself, be your own country. But can we not be reconciled? Can we not yet find common ground?

I had always regarded the union (us) as something of an obstreperous, slightly dysfunctional but ultimately common family. Did we take your for granted? Is the only answer to go our separate ways? I guess that’s what I find so difficult. For me it’s about the future that we can make together, not the past. If you can’t, we’re done for, I accept that. But if you can, let us work together to make the union a better place for all of us. Every one of us. Give it another shot. Don’t give up on us now.
Geoff Cordell

• I have started the petition “Scotland – please don’t leave us, we need you”, and wanted to ask if you could add your name, too. The Scottish referendum means a lot to all of us in the UK. We might just be about to tear up 300 years of successful coexistence. Signing this petition is one way of expressing our feelings in favour of a no vote – especially for those who cannot vote. Even if we cannot vote we can still send a message of support. You can read more and sign the petition at: you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/scotland-please-don-t-leave-us-we-need-you.
Ginnie Cumming

• The Scots will vote yes. And the rest of us will owe them a debt of gratitude. Their vote will send symbolically, in the only effective way our current democratic system permits, these messages to all our politicians. We want, not a change of government, but a change of politics.

You lack the competence to run the country; and the vision to lead it. You lied to us and deceived us, into an illegal war with disastrous consequences. You cheated and stole from us; and those of you who didn’t, allowed it to happen. A privileged, privately educated 7% permanently hold 30%-73% of positions of power. Our representative democracy entrenches a profoundly unrepresentative power structure it is not empowered to change. This privileged power elite are not held accountable or punished for their venality, incompetence or mistakes, as we are in our jobs and daily lives. We are justly proud of our NHS and the inspirational ideals that underpin it. We want those principles preserved, enhanced and funded, not undermined by subversive privatisation.

So, good luck to you Scotland. We respect your courage and admire your confidence.
Keith Farman
St Albans

• I read with a sinking heart the piece by the normally wise Deborah Orr (Debate has intoxicated Scotland, 5 September). How can so-called progressives have become so bewitched by a nationalist movement? Is it simply enough for them that this movement says it hates the current UK government?

There are plenty of people north of the border-that-isn’t-really-a-border (yet) that will mourn the loss of Great Britain, which should be some comfort to Jonathan Freedland after his nuanced reflection (If Britain loses Scotland, 5 September); people who are glad that two previously sovereign but constantly warring and mutually slaughtering nations decided, a little over 300 years ago, to form a new country to leave the worst of their pasts behind. Is it progress to resurrect earlier, narrower identities?

As for the point about this being about “democracy” because Scotland gets Tories it never voted for, would the same progressives accept the decision of the Kingdom of Wessex to secede in the event of a Labour government because, a few pockets apart, they didn’t vote that way? Take this logic to its extreme and one has no polity at all, only 63 million individuals who share nothing.

Orr also confuses pragmatism and realism for apathy: the UK’s system of government is not perfect. But can anyone point to one that is? I, and many others, will proudly vote “No, thanks” not because we believe that we live under perfection but because we believe, fervently, in our polity stretching from Catihness to Cornwall, from Canterbury to Caernarfon and Cookstown, and all varied and valued places in between. Its evolution can, and should, continue, but independence for Scotland will mark its destruction.
Alastair Deighton
Perth, Scotland

Members of English Scots for Yes at the border between Scotland and England at Berwick-upon-Tweed Members of English Scots for Yes hold a tea party at the border between Scotland and England, just north of Berwick-upon-Tweed. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA

Simon Jenkins is not Scottish but it is extremely mean of him to write about “expatriate Scots who have no intention of returning home but who enjoy telling Scotland its business from the fleshpots of London” (A yes vote will produce a leaner, meaner Scotland, 5 September). The huge issue of independence or not for our much-loved country is not only for people who live in Scotland, it is for all Scottish people who live in the UK. We are all passionate about Scotland and its future. We did not emigrate. Scotland is still part of the UK. Most Scots moved to other parts of the UK for job reasons, some of their own volition, others posted south by Scottish companies, eg the big banks.

And who is Jenkins to say that we have no intention of returning home? If he became editor of the Scotsman and went to live in Edinburgh, would he be pleased to relinquish his right to vote on English matters? Scots who live and work in other parts of the UK are as Scottish as anybody who lives in Scotland and “more Scottish” than the large numbers of English people and foreign nationals who are entitled to vote because they do live there and are on the electoral register. Alex Salmond’s motives in setting up the vote in this way are open to question and are, in the least, narrow-minded, inward-looking and parochial. Whatever the outcome, I say the vote will not be valid because a large number of Scottish people have been disenfranchised against their will.
David Forrester Mitchell
Maidenhead, Berkshire

• As a Scot who has lived in England for 30 years, I don’t recognise myself – or most others I know in similar circumstances – in Simon Jenkins’ description of “expatriate Scots who have no intention of returning home”. As with many living on “this” side of the border who have no voice in the referendum but would, given the opportunity, vote no’ on September 18, I have no aversion to living in Scotland in future, but have no need to return “home”, and definitely do not see myself as an “expatriate” as I never left my patria! My home country is the UK: moving from Scotland to England was no more consequential to my sense of self or of citizenship than moving from Glasgow to Edinburgh or from Guildford to Godalming. I consider myself at home on both sides of the river Tweed.

Jenkins plays fast and loose with the evidence for a declining sense of Britishness among the Scots. Far from showing a collapse in identification with Britain north of the border, the evidence consistently shows a comfortable majority of Scots have a subtler and more realistic sense of national identity than the crude either/or choice of “British or Scottish” implied in the article. When offered the chance to choose a purely Scottish, a purely British, or a mixed identity, around two thirds of those living in Scotland describe themselves as British and Scottish. It is the purists – those who see themselves as “only Scottish” or “only British” – who are in the minority. Voters in Scotland will have their say on 18 September and the result will fall where it will, that’s democracy. But let’s not reduce a complex debate to a crude “Scot or not” dichotomy which helps no one.
Professor Charles Pattie

• Jonathan Freedland writes about “Scots voting”. Deborah Orr is more careful and calls the voters “people of Scotland” and “voters in Scotland”. Please, do not give the impression that it is Scots who are voting. I am a Scot, one of many living outside Scotland. I was born there, educated there and my parents lived there until they died. I have no vote. No Scots living outside their own country have a vote, and there are many of us all over the world. We care about Scotland and hope the voters there will make sure they do the right thing for the country we love, on behalf of Scots in the UK, for Scots worldwide, and for all the people of the UK.
Dian Montgomerie Elvin
Witney, Oxfordshire

A section of the BP ETAP (Eastern Trough Area Project) oil platform in the North Sea, 100 miles east of Aberdeen, Scotland. Photograph: Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty

We have viewed the report by N-56 (22 August) on the potential for unconventional oil and gas extraction from the Kimmeridge Clay in the North Sea using fracking and we agree this has significant potential. Using the technology there is potential to double the reserve base of the North Sea, bringing in an additional £300bn from Scottish waters. While there are still economic and technological challenges to overcome, it is also true that 10 years ago no one predicted the shale gas revolution that has transformed the economic fortunes of North America. Offshore fracking also has the advantage of being far less invasive and challenging to society. Once again we see how the ingenuity of the oil exploration community continues to add huge potential resources to proven reserves. We can look forward to a long future of oil and gas wealth from the North Sea.
Professor John Howell Chair in geology & petroleum geology, University of Aberdeen; Alex Russell Professor of petroleum accounting Peter Strachan Professor of energy policy, Aberdeen Business School at Robert Gordon University

• George Monbiot’s scathing depiction of the English oligarchy does not support his inference that Scotland would be better out of the UK (Comment, 3 September). The interest rate decisions of the monetary policy committee are not the only influences on the currency which the SNP plans to share with the rump UK. The Treasury, the banks and City institutions all play a part. Achieving political independence is not the same as gaining economic independence.

A separate Scotland would lose the manifold political and business influences its representatives can exert on the shared currency. Many Greeks, Portuguese and other Europeans would no doubt refer the Scots to Keynes’s aphorism: “He who controls the currency controls the country.” Relieved of moderating pressures from within the UK framework, the oligarchs would probably have more control over Scotland’s economy than they do at present.
Bryn Jones

A pro-independence supporter holds a Enjoying the benefit of the bounce? Would Scotland get a joyful boost from its independence – even on the sports field? Photograph: Andy Buchanana/AFP/Getty

A factor overlooked in most political discussion is what we might call “national bounce”. It runs deeper than, and is often responsible for, other things such as the economy and national harmony. We see it in Germany, the country that lost and was wrecked by the second world war but which is now the most influential country in Europe. The Germans have bounce. Britain appears to have lost its national bounce. We try to compensate with Olympics, football or The X Factor but distractions do not compensate for the lost bounce of the people as a whole.

We are no longer together in national excitement. If, however, Scotland becomes independent a massive surge in national bounce, from day one for an exciting country, will overcome the niggling trivia of economic forecasting from the less-inspiring politicians and pontificators. In a short time the new Scotland will likely find itself faced with eager immigration from English people who are bored with the dreary and pretentious economomania of many of our leaders.
Ian Flintoff

David Cameraon at the Nato summit at Celtic Manor Hotel, Newport, Wales, Britain Gulp … Scottish independence would mean much (and less) for David Cameron. Photograph: Rex Features

Those like Jonathan Freedland (Comment, 6 September) who are surprised at the possibility that the Scots may actually vote yes could usefully read Norman Davies’s book Vanished Kingdoms, The History of Half-Forgotten Europe. The conclusion from this study is that seemingly immutable countries, empires etc can disintegrate a) when least expected and b) with remarkable speed. Watch this space.
Alisdair McNicol
Wallasey, Merseyside

• It seems that David Cameron may exceed his wildest dreams in his agenda to reduce the size of the state: the secession of Scotland would indeed reduce the state for which he is responsible, trumping the sum of all the previous cuts to welfare and sales of state assets. It looks as though it is just those cuts, accompanied by manoeuvres to privatise health and education, that could tip the balance in favour of a yes vote.
Daphne Sanders
Preston, Lancashire

• If the Scots vote for independence, David Cameron’s legacy will be that he was the prime minister who took the Great out of Great Britain, the United out of United Kingdom, and the Union out of Union Jack.
Rachel Carter

• I’m a naturalised British citizen with a UK passport, but am neither English, Scots nor Welsh. In the event of a break-up of the UK (which would make me very sad) do I get to choose, or is there a default position?
Marcia Heinemann

• In response to the latest opinion polls on Scottish independence, it seems the three main Westminster party leaders are about to announce the possibility of a federal UK. Oh, yes please, bring it on. And if it happens, thank you, Scotland.
John Marriott
North Hykeham, Lincoln

• When Yugoslavia disintegrated, Macedonia became FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia). So If Scotland votes for independence, will England, Wales and Northern Ireland have to be FUK?
Dimitri Kissoff


The experiences of your correspondents (“I’m burnt out after three years of 70 hours a week”, 6 September) will be familiar to teachers all over the country.

My daughter has just resigned after more than 20 years’ teaching in the secondary sector. Conscientious and creative, described as “outstanding” at inspections, she would not compromise her standards and became, like so many others, disillusioned and burnt out.

Like your correspondent “Socrates”, as a parent I am relieved that she has left, but sad because all those pupils she would have inspired in the future will never know her.

The daughter of friends, also outstanding, has recently resigned from her primary school for the same reasons. My brother, a much-respected primary head, is about to take early retirement, tired of all the unacceptable changes. What a loss to the profession such great teachers are.

I retired from teaching in further education 10 years after the sector was taken from the control of LEAs and colleges became PLCs. My pay was frozen because I refused to sign a new contract which did not limit weekly teaching hours. I watched as colleagues suffered under the strain; many left because they could not or would not teach on those conditions. A student once told me that I was the only teacher who had any time for him; I pointed out that this was literally true.

Earning the same in 2003 as I had in 1993 has meant that my pension is smaller than it would have been, but I don’t regret it; teaching is not about money.

And thank you, Michael Rosen, for saying that the powers-that-be should  leave education to teachers, “who know better how  to do it”.

Christina Jones

Retford, Nottinghamshire

Avoid messy divorce with Scotland

It is bad enough that Scotland wants a divorce, but it is worse that the UK wants a messy one, as it does not want any currency union with Scotland.

Given that Scotland and England have a shared history that goes back 300 years, and given that 51 per cent of Scottish voters now want independence, any long-term solution would have to include some sort of economic mechanism to ensure that these historical ties are preserved. What better way to maintain these ties than to bind the two countries together via a currency union?

With currency union, an independent Scotland would remain, albeit nominally, a part of the UK. Without it, it will be like any other foreign country. The currency union between Scotland and the rest of the UK could work overwhelmingly in the interest of both countries

Randhir Singh Bains

Gants Hill, Ilford


If the Scots vote Yes, perhaps the rest of us may be allowed a referendum to vote on whether they should be allowed to participate in a currency union. I suspect that rejection of the Union and the probable resulting turmoil in the currency and financial markets following such a vote would leave very few favourably disposed to underwriting Alex Salmond’s project.

J R Whelan

Bebington, Wirral

It seems surprising that no one so far has mentioned the enormous amount that would have to be spent to build or rent Scottish embassies and consulates all over the world – and to staff them. Do the potential Yes voters realise this?

Trevor Baker

London N3

As I sat watching the sun set at an unreasonable 7.30pm, it struck me that if Scotland became independent, it could have its own time zone to enable farmers to greet their cattle in daylight and children to go safely to school.

Then the remaining bit of the UK could adopt double summer time and have the benefits of extended evenings that the rest of Europe enjoys. One positive for the Yes vote, from an English perspective.

John Nichols

Colchester, Essex

Could an independent Scotland be persuaded  to take Northern Ireland with it?

Robert Davies

London SE3

Recognise that pupils are all different

One reason why more older children have limited reading skills (“Literacy crisis makes for uneasy reading”, 8 September) is that their early exposure to the education system, with all its pressures, has made learning more of a struggle.

When starting school, a load of four- to five-year-olds are put together in one class and treated as if they’re the same, but they develop at different rates.

Some perfectly bright individuals have difficulty with fine motor skills, so holding a pen or pencil is hard. Others can’t really begin to grasp reading and writing until they’re seven or eight because that’s simply when the relevant part of their brain has matured sufficiently.

There’s nothing wrong with children who can’t catch on to formal lessons right away – whether it’s not recognising their letters or being unable to draw shapes – but despite this, they are often labelled as “special needs”, and such morale-sapping failure to meet expectations, at such a young age, puts many youngsters off education for life. They develop a fear of learning or are fed up with trying to learn.

Emilie Lamplough

Trowbridge, Wiltshire

Your otherwise sound exposé of child illiteracy made no mention of the vital work put in by local libraries, with their Reading Challenge and other excellent programmes, in promoting children’s reading. Our libraries have taken an appalling series of hits in the cuts imposed since 2010 – yet another facet of the Cameron gang’s new serfdom, in which literacy is reserved for People Like Us.

Richard Humble


Yes, there is life outside London

David Lister (6 September) wrote a coherent and compelling plea to artists such as Kate Bush to recognise that not just London is eager for its shot of concerts and culture. So please could The Independent’s Radar practise what it preaches.

Instead of three pages of London cinema listings, please bring back a smattering of publicity for good cinemas throughout the UK. You might even include those in Scotland before they want nothing to do with the rest of us.

Maggie Humphreys

Allerton, Liverpool


Russia has reasons for its actions in Ukraine

Russia’s bloodless annexation of Crimea was in accord with the genuinely overwhelming support of the population of Crimea. Despite this, the West has been screaming for sanctions against Russia.

Contrast Russia’s action with that of Israel – Israel has been seizing Palestinian land illegally over a long period, against the wishes of the Palestinians, ignoring UN resolutions and killing hundreds in the process. Where are the sanctions against Israel?

The US has a long history of conspiring to overthrow governments of which it disapproved (never mind if that government was democratically elected), sometimes installing a ruthless dictator.

How much of the removal of the democratically elected pro-Russian president of Ukraine was due to US and European interference?

If Russia annexes part of eastern Ukraine, that too may be in accord with the wishes of the people there. Ukraine was part of Russia for hundreds of years – Kiev was once the capital of Russia. Many famous Russians were born in Ukraine, and many people in Ukraine regard themselves as Russian. There needs to be some recognition of this.

Ron Watts

King’s Lynn, Norfolk

‘Sans-culottes’  did have trousers

The sans-culottes of the French Revolution to whom John Lichfield refers, in his article “Revenge of ‘les sans dents’” (6 September) on Valérie Trierweiler’s memoir of François Hollande, could be seen as ancestors of Hollande’s “sans-dents”.

But they were known as sans-culottes not because they were “trouserless”, but because they wore trousers (pantalons) rather than aristocratic breeches (culottes).

Peter Cogman

Shirley, Southampton

Momentous news: another Royal baby

I was listening to a fluent, impassioned speech on BBC News by the General Secretary of the TUC on the subject of the gross inequalities of the British class system.

Suddenly, the announcer cut in to deliver the momentous news that the Duchess of Cambridge is pregnant.

This was then followed by a long analysis of this great event by various journalistic royal-watchers, and Frances O’Grady’s excellent and important contribution to the national debate was forgotten.

Only in England!

Chris Payne

Lipa City, Batangas, Philippines

The news that William and Catherine are expecting yet another child suddenly makes the prospect of a long flight to one of the outer planets seem quite enticing.

Andrew McLuskey

Stanwell, Staines


Is it Conservative policy that some people and some parts of the UK should be written off?

Sir, Matthew Parris’s article “Tories should turn their backs on Clacton” (Sept 6) is an elegant description of the Conservatives’ mindset: some people and some parts of the UK should be written off. It is this perceived mindset, and its influence on the party’s choice of policies and how the latter are implemented, that put me off when the time comes to vote.

I suspect I am not alone.

George Stonier

Dilhorne, Staffs

Nicotine is addictive. Making e-cigarettes prescription-only ‘seems a sensible option’

Sir, As a respiratory consultant for more than 20 years I have witnessed first-hand the misery and premature death caused by cigarette smoking. Both sides of the debate on the use of e-cigarettes make valid points (report, Sept 5, and letter, Sept 6). I agree that e-cigarettes are much less harmful than tobacco and will reduce mortality among smokers. Where I urge caution is in being too liberal in the product’s availability. I worry that we are allowing a highly addictive drug — nicotine — to be marketed and sold. There is a danger of the next generation becoming dependent on e-cigarettes.

Experts assure us that there is no evidence of e-cigarette use leading to tobacco use. Absence of evidence, however, is not proof of no effect.

Yes, encourage current smokers to switch to e-cigarettes, but do not allow the tobacco industry to market an addictive drug with minimal safeguards. Making e-cigarettes only available on prescription seems a sensible option.

Dr JA Roberts

Consultant physician, Royal Hampshire County Hospital

The authorities should take firm and immediate action over the booing of Moeen Ali

Sir, Like Richard Hobson (Sport, Sept 8), I was disappointed by the loud booing of Moeen Ali at the Twenty20 England v India international at Edgbaston. On every other count it was a riveting match, but to see this exciting English cricketer being treated in this way a few miles from where he was brought up left a very sour taste.

Yet the cricketing authorities knew this would happen as Ali was similarly treated at last Tuesday’s international on the same ground. It’s not good enough to turn a deaf ear to completely unacceptable behaviour.

When Ricky Ponting came in for similar treatment a few years ago, the powers that be were quick to take action and Ponting was given the respect he was due. The same should have happened to Moeen Ali.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

House of Lords

Should the number of MPs be cut to enable those remaining in the Commons to have a 10% pay increase?

Sir, The dire state of public finances will not permit any overall increase in spending (“Osborne challenges 10% pay rise for MPs”, Sept 8). Why not, therefore, adopt the standard business response to a challenging economic environment and introduce an efficiency drive? A 10 per cent cut in the number of MPs could add up to an affordable 10 per cent pay increase.

Barry Fox

Brampton, Cambs

Sir, Perhaps the answer is to pay the higher level recommended by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority to newly elected MPs only. This would satisfy the concerns of both sides.

Rob Tooze

Darlington, Co Durham


Battle of Arnhem 

6:57AM BST 08 Sep 2014


SIR – A generation of courageous men and women who endured the trials of a world war is passing with increasing rapidity. Soon they will all be gone. That is why every year I take a group of children to Arnhem in Holland, so that they can hear the stories of a bitter battle told by those who actually fought it.

Last year, at a ceremony in the main cemetery near Arnhem, our school group witnessed a young soldier fainting while on duty. The first to his side was no medic or first-aider. It was an elderly figure, wearing beret and medals, who had leapt from his chair and run 40 yards to help: 92-year-old Arnhem veteran, Johnny Peters. We stood witnessing an act of selflessness and camaraderie, instinctive and undimmed after all these years.

This month is the 70th anniversary of the battle at Arnhem. The last survivors will make one final pilgrimage. Johnny Peters will not be present; sadly, he passed away a few weeks ago. But the qualities of that extraordinary generation, embodied in men like Peters, will live on. Their legacy will endure.

It is a lesson not found in any school curriculum.

Titus Mills
Lymington, Hampshire

Streaming in schools

SIR – Mary Boustead, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, may be an experienced teacher, but she appears to lack logic when she says “The last thing we should do is to divide children into ability sets”.

I would have thought it obvious that if you have very bright children and not so clever children in the same class, much of the teaching is inevitably too slow for one group or too fast for the other. She should look at the example of Eton, where pupils take the Common Entrance exam and go directly into divisions. As the teaching is practical and appropriate, late developers are then able to catch up with their peers.

The obsession with avoiding selection has removed the opportunity for disadvantaged children to succeed, the result being a reduction in social mobility.

Lord Digby
Dorchester, Dorset

Religious tolerance

SIR – Eric Pickles writes that our tradition of British tolerance is something to be proud of, but we should be wary of groups taking advantage of this.

As the great political theorist Karl Popper said, we should exercise “the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.”

Therefore, faith groups have not only rights but obligations to ensure that their adherents do not cause harm to anyone else. Each faith community must appreciate that we do not live in a theocracy, but a multi-faith pluralist democracy. The right to practise religion freely is a cornerstone of British democracy, but does not come without its obligations.

Zaki Cooper
Trustee, Council of Christians and Jews
London EC4

In other words

SIR – While I have much sympathy for the views expressed by Christopher Pelly (Letters, September 5) on the use of Latin terminology, he is unwise to challenge the English language on its range of synonyms.

Latin may have at least 15 for the word famous, but English has many more: notable, acclaimed, celebrated, illustrious, famed, lionised, notorious, noteworthy, reputable, renowned, peerless, preeminent, august, eminent, honoured, peerless, exalted, distinguished, well-known, esteemed and legendary, to name but 21.

David Hipshon
Twickenham, Middlesex

SIR – As both a musician and lover of onions, I particularly enjoyed a recent performance of Thomas Tallis’s masterpiece, which was advertised on the poster as Spem in Allium.

Never again will I put my hope in another when I could put it in the trusty onion.

Susan Sturrock
London SW19

Fallen from favour

SIR – A few years ago, Elmbridge was rated the best place to live in Britain; now it doesn’t even make the top thousand.

Was it something I said?

Les Sharp
Elmbridge, Surrey

Unrecorded crime

SIR – I read the story of Lexi the poodle, whose death the police ignored (report, September 5), with interest. The police seem to be at pains to ensure that wherever possible, no crime is recorded.

My son was recently attacked while disembarking from a flight from Croatia at Heathrow. Despite physical evidence of the attack and the willingness of the flight crew to affirm his innocence, the attending police insisted that if he pressed charges both he and the suspect would be detained for at least 24 hours.

As my son had an important business meeting the following day, he decided he could not press charges, and consequently no crime took place.

David Workman

SIR – Those of us who live in the countryside have been aware of a total lack of active police coverage for a number of years, and the situation is getting worse.

In my small farming community, I estimate that in the past 10 weeks more than £100,000 worth of equipment has been stolen by gangs, and the police have shown little interest other than to complete the form on their computer screen.

Neville H Walker
Orton-on-the-Hill, Leicestershire

Street cries

SIR – Doff Hughes (Letters, September 2) should consider himself fortunate that he is only disturbed by construction vehicles.

We live next door to a nursing home which receives regular deliveries plus the odd ambulance and refuse vehicle – all of which beep when reversing. Worse still are those vehicles that emit a dreary repetitive warning – “Stand clear, vehicle reversing”.

Peter Dodd
Tadworth, Surrey

Go bananas

SIR – It would seem that bananas are now good news again, but your leading article did not mention their other quality. They present a wonderful writing surface for a ballpoint pen.

David Faithfull
Cranleigh, Surrey

SIR – My company sells a small X-ray system for the assessment of osteoporotic fracture risk. The radiation dose from one scan is roughly equivalent to eating a single banana. There are benefits from both.

Andrew Thomson
Rugby, Warwickshire

Hop to it: this black basalt rabbit by Sheldon, 1911, is part of the Wedgwood collection  Photo: Wedgwood Museum

6:59AM BST 08 Sep 2014


SIR – The council of the Society for Post-Medieval Archaeology would like to voice its strong support for the Art Fund’s Save the Wedgwood Collection appeal.

While there may well be broad appreciation for the collection’s artistic importance, its international significance to post-medieval archaeology is perhaps less well known. The subject’s core areas of interest are the study of such topics as the artefacts of the post-1500 modern world, globalisation and the spread of capitalism. The Wedgwood collection is a vital research resource for all these issues.

Wherever archaeologists work on sites dating to the later 18th and 19th centuries – whether in Britain and Europe or in places as remote as the desert oases of the Persian Gulf – one of the most common and important artefact types we recover are the ceramics produced, or inspired by, Josiah Wedgwood and his successors.

The loss of this research collection would therefore have a devastating impact not just on the artistic heritage of Britain, but also on period research in the humanities internationally.

We hope that your readers will join the SPMA in lending their support to this important cause.

Dr David Caldwell
President, SPMA

SIR – Fraser Nelson’s timely article on the Scottish referendum is to be welcomed.

I am astonished and dismayed that the people of both Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom seem oblivious to the threat to the security of the realm which a Yes vote would constitute.

The arguments to date seem to be focused on finance, health and social issues, while the effect on wider international matters seems largely to have been ignored. A Yes vote represents the greatest threat to the UK since 1940. It would severely damage our international standing, possibly endanger our position on the Security Council, compromise the capability of our Armed Forces and thus affect our contribution to Nato.

Scots have played an integral part in the affairs of Britain, and the world, for the past 300 years, producing several prime ministers, military leaders and world-class scientists and academics. The Nationalists now seem happy to lose their place at the top table of world affairs, and in the course of doing so they will severely compromise the influence of the whole United Kingdom.

Robin Colson

SIR – If it is to succeed, the campaign to save the Union must change course.

It has been a grave mistake to rely almost entirely on economic arguments. There is no way of showing decisively that Scotland would be less prosperous outside the Union. Incessant argument over currency, oil and the provision of public services has led to an unproductive and unseemly wrangle on both sides.

The Unionists must make their case in strong patriotic terms during the days that remain. They must invite the people of Scotland not just to say No to independence, but to say Yes to a new and positive relationship with the rest of the United Kingdom on terms of full equality.

The Scottish Parliament has been promised additional powers. It should be made clear that their conferment will mark the start of work in all parts of the UK to devise a new constitutional settlement that would bind them together on a federal basis. Thus Unionism would acquire the sense of vision it badly needs.

Lord Lexden
London SW1

SIR – Presumably, if Scotland goes independent on September 18, all Scottish Westminster MPs will resign their seats the following day.

John Sabin
Pulborough, West Sussex

SIR – Given the evidence that the Better Together campaign is lagging, there is a sure-fire way to save the Union.

David Cameron and Ed Miliband must fly to Edinburgh and campaign for the Yes side. That will guarantee a No vote.

Harry Fuchs
Flecknoe, Warwickshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – A recurring strawman in the debate about gender quotas in a representative democracy is that our parliamentary system is intended to primarily represent the demographics of a society. It is not.

A representative democracy needs to represent the broadest range of ideas and opinions and with numbers in the debate to roughly mirror those it represents. It must facilitate a publicly accessible environment where these ideas are robustly debated and vigorously contested. Members of the electorate must then be able to openly and without fear of intimidation decide for themselves which viewpoint they wish to support at the ballot box. Does anyone believe that this is what our parliamentary system currently affords us? Is the main fault really with the gender of those doing the debating or is it the ideas being debated?

Is the real problem with the composition of the Oireachtas with the choice on offer at election time (when anyone is free to stand as a candidate) or is it with the mindset of the electorate when making choices? Is one of the problems with candidates that people are unwilling to stand up for their beliefs at election time when there is no certainty that they will be successful? Faint heart never won fair mandate. – Yours, etc,


College Gate,

Townsend Street,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – Gender quotas are used not as preferential treatment; rather they are an attempt to remedy problems of deep-rooted male privilege.

The merit argument is often advanced as a reason to oppose gender quotas, ie that the best person for the job should be chosen irrespective of gender. However, all things are not equal. If merit were the only criterion governing the election of politicians, then the Dáil would not be composed of 16 per cent women.

Progress on voluntary gender quotas implementation by the political parties in Ireland has been a dismal failure.

The passing of the Electoral (Political Funding) Act in July 2012 was a recognition by the mostly male Dáil that progress on gender equality would not be advanced without a financial penalty to the political parties.

This problem of gender inequality is not only an issue between men and women but also between progressive men and those men who benefit from the status quo.

Women are by far the biggest group underrepresented in Irish politics. – Yours, etc,


Cork 5050 Group,

Croaghta Park,

Glasheen, Cork.

Sir, – In response to my point that the introduction of gender quotas could result in better candidates losing out to weaker candidates, Anthony Leavy (September 6th) remarks that, “The decisions that contributed to the bankrupting of the country were made by a Dáil which was nearly 90 per cent male” and that “it does not look, therefore, as if the better qualified candidates were always chosen in the past”.

Mr Leavy’s contention that there was a causal link between the gender profile of the Dáil and the bankrupting of the country suffers from a bad case of “reduction fallacy”, recently defined by your columnist David Robert Grimes (“The way we argue now”, August 16th) as “an often misguided attempt to ascribe single causes to outcomes that are in reality complex interplays of many factors”. Dr Grimes pointed out that the “Post hoc ergo propter hoc” (“after this, therefore because of this“) fallacy is used to brilliant comic effect by the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster to assert that a drop in the number of global pirates since the 1800s has caused global warming.

While it may well be true that better qualified Dáil candidates were not always chosen in the past (and I look forward to the day when we have more women in politics and put the days of the old boys’ networks and nepotism behind us), I would submit that the performance of the Dáil up to and during the bankruptcy of the State had more to do with the well documented objectively identifiable deficiencies of the Dáil – for example a lack of expertise, groupthink and the whip system – than with its gender profile. – Yours, etc,


Stocking Avenue,


Dublin 16.

Sir, – It is misleading to say that half of our population is somehow disenfranchised because only 15 per cent of TDs are female. Women (and men) are free to vote for whatever candidate they choose. The resulting composition of the Dáil suggests that the gender of the is not their priority – nor do I think it should be. Clumsy attempts to “correct” the electorate by restricting its choice is, like most patronising interference, likely to have unintended and undesirable consequences. – Yours, etc,


Moyclare Close,


Dublin 13.

Sir, – The debate rumbles on about gender equality in Irish politics. Quotas are constantly referred to as a method of achieving this. Surely if there is a genuine desire to have gender equality then the only and best way to achieve this is to have an equal number of seats designated for male and female representatives in all political bodies, including the Dáil.

Voters would simply vote for their male representatives on one ballot paper and vote for their female representatives on a separate ballot paper.

Quotas are for farming and fishing, not for women.

If Irish society is genuine in wanting equality in political representation, then perhaps this suggestion deserves some serious debate.– Yours, etc,


Saval Park Gardens,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – We can be sure that, quotas or otherwise, the criteria for the selection of female candidates will be much the same as for their male counterparts, ie having the right connections, having the right views and being willing to toe the party line when required. This is not a recipe for a better quality of public representative. – Yours, etc,




Co Meath.

Sir, – The chief executive of the Heritage Council, Michael Starrett, referring to Bantry House, rightly draws attention to the economic value of cultural and heritage tourism to the country (September 5th). He might also have added that there is no more economic way for the State of providing attractions than when their private owners open them to visitors. Bantry was the first great house in the State to open its doors like this in the 1940s, and when we visited it last week it was full of Irish, American and continental tourists poring over its fascinating and eclectic contents.

The owners of Bantry House deserve every support in keeping this beautiful place and its collection intact. Places such as Castletown House, Fota, Kilkenny Castle and Malahide Castle have all come into public ownership but are so much less interesting without their original contents. In fact we have now very few heritage properties with their historic contents in place, and compare badly with other countries such as Scotland, where a last-minute campaign saved the remarkable contents of Dumfries House from auction in 2007.

The Headfort House example referred to by Mr Starrett, where the Heritage Council purchased important furniture and left it in situ, would seem the perfect solution for Bantry. While it is clear that the Heritage Council does not at present have the funds to help on this occasion, perhaps Mr Starrett could negotiate with the owners to postpone the auction to see if funds can be raised in some other way. In other countries public appeals are raised to save treasures for the nation, and we are sure such an appeal would get widespread support in this case, not least from the traders of west Cork and Cork County Council.

While it may not be possible to save every heritage property in this country, Bantry House and its contents should be high on any list of priorities. Its treasures, once dispersed, will be lost forever and that would be a great shame. – Yours, etc,



Palmerston Road, Dublin 6.

Sir, – Chris Johns wrote an interesting analysis piece on Scotland, until he hit his last paragraph: “The euro still exists, despite many forecasts to the contrary, because of Europe’s detestation and fear of petty nationalism. There is absolutely nothing about Scottish nationalists that endears them to Europe’s elites. They should expect a very cold welcome in Brussels and Frankfurt” (“Potential for unintended consequences if Scots choose independence”, Business Opinion, September 5th).

Come again? Who suggested the idea of European federation but a Scot, Prof James Lorimer, in 1884? Who was a key member of the convention discussing a European constitution but Lorimer’s successor in the “Law of Nature and of Nations” chair at Edinburgh University but the late Sir Neil MacCormick MEP, son of the founder of the SNP?

Besides, Eurocrats in Brussels will be, unlike Mr Johns, careful whereof they speak: they live cheek by jowl with two “petty nations”, Flanders and Wallonia, far more awkward than us Scots. – Yours, etc,


University of Tübingen,


Wilhelmstrasse 50,


A chara, – It was good and timely of Diarmaid Ferriter (“Hayes’s Hotel where Cusack founded GAA needs saving”, Opinion & Analysis, September 6th) to raise the possibility of the GAA buying Hayes’s Hotel, Thurles, the birthplace of the GAA. After Sunday’s pulsating final – the third of three drawn All-Ireland hurling finals – the financial resources are surely there. Moreover, there are precedents for ventures into unusual territory – in my adopted city of Belfast the National Trust owns one of Belfast’s finest public houses and heritage buildings, the Crown Bar.

A commercial-cum-heritage project on an iconic site in my home town of Thurles would have the further benefit of aiding rural renewal in the region.

Needless to add, as Tipperary are set to reclaim the All-Ireland title in a few weeks, it would be especially fitting that such a decision be made on this the 130th anniversary of the founding of the GAA at Hayes’s Hotel, Thurles, Co Tipperary. – Is mise,


Queen’s University,


Sir, – Many of your readers will be aware of the dearth of church, census and other early records as a result of fire in the Four Courts in 1922. As a student of genealogy at UCD I have spent many pleasurable hours in the National Library of Ireland over the past three years. Recent warnings by Catherine Fahy, acting director of the library, of the crisis looming there and specifically of the absence of a water sprinkler system in the main body of the library, sent shivers down my spine (“National Library at ‘critical point’ as cutbacks hit services”, September 4th).

It is impossible to put a value on the treasures which are held in the National Library of Ireland. Old books, newspapers, personal and estate papers, many containing wills and deeds, chart the history of our country. When first given access to a 17th-century lease of land in my native Tipperary, I commented how valuable this would be considered in say, the National Library of Australia. My husband rightly pointed out that the lease predated the founding of Australia and for that matter the United States of America and Canada! Think about that for a second.

As we approach the centenary of 1916, I can think of no finer nor less controversial tribute to those who died than to invest in this national institution which contains the shared history of millions, not just on these islands , but worldwide. I would urge Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys and the Government to heed Ms Fahy’s warnings. – Yours, etc,



Clonskeagh, Dublin 14.

Sir, – Noel Whelan makes a profound statement about what happened to this country when he tells us that “showtime” and “auction politics” ended “when the floor under the Celtic Tiger collapsed with the fiscal and banking crisis in 2008” (“No time for showtime politics in lead-up to budget”, Opinion & Analysis, September 5th).

During the years of the boom the message from many quarters was that everything was getting better and there was virtually no downside. In addition, during the years of the consequent austerity, the message from sometimes the same quarters was that there was no need for all this doom and gloom.

Both messages were wrong.

Now that a “fragile recovery” is being talked about, Mr Whelan is right to warn all not to repeat the “auction politics” messages and “to stay away from the politics of showtime”. – Yours, etc,


Shielmartin Drive,


Dublin 13.

Sir, – Further to Frank McNally’s “The lost art of paper pushing” (An Irishman’s Diary, September 4th), the custom of newspaper boys calling out their wares in the street has not died out in Ireland.

On a recent visit to Cork I heard the sound of “Eeco” all over the city centre as the “Echo Boys”, as they are known, sold their papers on the streets. A very evocative sound indeed for someone brought up in that city, although I wonder what the tourists make of it. – Yours, etc,




Co Wicklow.

Sir, – All of us from Cork will surely remember the particular call of the Evening Echo boys. It sounded like “Aye yack ooh wah”. – Yours, etc,


Siwanoy Lane,

New Canaan,


Sir, – When I was growing up in the late 1950s and early 1960s, I can well recall that the cry of one particular paper boy who would ply his trade walking the length and breadth of Dún Laoghaire’s George’s Street – a then bustling thoroughfare – was “Heral-a-Mail-or-Prezz”. I can state this without fear of contradiction, for I was that newsboy! – Yours, etc,


Beacon Hill,


Co Dublin.

A chara, – Fergus Finlay’s articulate appeal (September 6th) for Cabinet action to redress the inadequate level of funding at Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, is to be applauded for highlighting a growing concern that children at risk are not being allocated social workers.

Is it possible that a sufficient number of Ministers will take notice of this appeal or is it more likely that the improving fiscal situation will be used to benefit the taxpayer, who, although hard pressed, is not particularly at risk of “abuse, neglect or welfare concerns”? – Is mise,


Ballycasey Manor,


Co Clare.

Sir, – Padraig J O’Connor (September 8th) asks if there is any solution to this frantic style of shelf-stacking that reduces biscuits to crumbs. The answer is simple. Lidl and Aldi stack the packets of biscuits in the boxes they were shipped in, thus avoiding damage during handling. For optimum protection, select the packet in the middle of the box to avoid end-of-box bumps. – Yours, etc,


Birchfield Park,


Dublin 14.

Sir, – That’s the way the cookie crumbles (or “them’s the breaks”, if you like) in today’s world of mass production. Bake your own. – Yours, etc,


South Circular Road,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – Your graphic illustrating the property tax revenue of local authorities (September 5th) makes it plain to see that the “squeezed middle” extends from Malin Head to Carnsore Point. – Yours, etc,



Co Donegal.

Sir, – Robert B Johnston (September 6th) deplores delays at an Irish airport. He should try going in the other direction with a non-US passport, then he would find out what airport welcomes are like. – Yours, etc,



Co Westmeath.

Sir, – What’s happening to the Cork Jazz Festival this year? Imelda May? The Drifters? Great artists, but hardly jazz. – Yours, etc,


John McCormack Avenue,


Dublin 12.

Irish Independent:

The unhinged behaviour of the so-called “Islamic State”, detached from all considerations of rational purpose or intent, may incline us to forget that the great Arabian cities of Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo were once beacons of enlightenment, tolerance and trade.

The Arab world, one of civilization’s great sources of learning, introduced us to the foundations of mathematics, science and philosophy, but has now become a toxic mix of fundamentalist religious beliefs, autocratic dynastic government and steady disassociation from the rest of the world.

I remember as a child being spellbound by the ‘Arabian Nights’, where I was introduced to tales that have influenced writers through the ages. It was a world of excitement and imagination. Children continue to be beguiled by ‘Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp’, the ‘Voyages of Sinbad’, and ‘Ali-Baba and the Forty Thieves’.

One of the least-understood aspects of the weakening of a distinctive Arab culture is its relationship to the development of Islam, as it steadily corroded the Arabian response to the world around it. At the extreme end fanatical jihadis, in combining Earthly and spiritual authority, seek to eliminate state boundaries in order to establish a world-wide Caliphate. The notion of democracy sits uneasily with their world view.

What has the West provided? The disastrous invasion of Iraq left a legacy of repression, economic stagnation and the intensification of mistrust of our world, particularly as represented by America. Brand America is very hard to sell in the context of the unlawful detention and torture in Guantanamo.

Here was a crass failure to act in accordance with the principles that were publicly so robustly espoused.

The breakdown of Arab culture should lead us to examine more critically our own way of life and the extent to which it has taken a direction that befits us as humans. We seem to be perpetually bewitched by vague ideals of national origin and destiny, but hesitant about confronting our share of present, unpalatable reality.

Philip O’Neill, Oxford, England

One is not amused

Information has been relayed to me from a source on the British royal staff that Queen Elizabeth is in a severe tizzy over the possibility of a “Yes” to an independent Scotland.

My informant’s intelligence implies that there are many sleepless nights in Windsor Castle due to the stark possibility that Britain is shrinking faster than the Arctic circle, a condition that is blamed on the ozone hole getting bigger. But that is no consolation to the royalist supporters who can only blame today’s resurrection of Robert the Bruce, Alex Salmond. He does not resemble the hole in the ozone layer in any way, but is on course to create a giant hole in London‘s exchequer book.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Calls for help have been received by the followers of the Ulster Covenant to drum up support for the brethren in the Better Together campaign, pushed by the hapless Alistair Darling.

A low cloud has appeared over “Ulster says No” territory, signalling the start of a migration that is akin to that of the wildebeest in the Serengeti. The Orangemen who often speak of their close affinity for their homeland of Scotland are intending to side with the English queen against the birthplace of their forefathers, who perhaps fought and routed the English invader at the battle of Bannockburn. Strange days.

James Woods, Gort an Choirce, Dun na nGall

Time to alter final ticket policy

Now that lightening has struck three times, might it be time for the GAA to adopt a ‘retain-your-ticket-stub’ policy and allow those who attended the first match the chance to see the replay.

Conan Doyle, Kilkenny city

Hurling final a cause for pride

Sir, Let us hope that the rest of the world was able to view the scintillating All-Ireland hurling final to form some idea of what the real Ireland is like. I was one of only two Kilkenny supporters (the other being my son) in the Clyde Court Hotel this afternoon where mesmerised American tourists were supporting the so-called underdogs with cries of ‘Up the Blues’.

We can hardly hope to see a finer display of hurling. How pleasing to see the replay designated for Croke Park on September 27, if the players have sufficient time to recover from their heroic endeavours.

In the football semi-final Mayo were surely defeated in the end by sheer exhaustion in the second period of extra time in the replay against Kerry (who were deserving winners).

May I suggest that we send the two hurling finalists as missionaries to the northern counties to teach them the rudiments of this wonderful game, played with superlative courage and pride this afternoon.

Such an occasion must surely be a source of pride for Irish men and women throughout the world, and a source of envy to the rest of us.

Dr Gerald Morgan, Trinity College, Dublin 2

Austerity shown to be futile

Obviously, the pumping of more than €500 billion into the EU economy by the European Central Bank means the horrendous austerity hell nations have been are going through has been meaningless, if this could have been done as far back as 2008.

We are led by a group of damn fools who see citizens as mere cash machines. Grr.

Robert Sullivan, Bantry, Co Cork

EU ineptitude on display

They have squeezed the last drop of blood out of us, and practically sucked the financial marrow from our bones.

Alas, all they have succeeded in doing, despite all that pain and hardship, is arriving right back where we started.

Any wonder Europe‘s economies are flat-lining when the cure has killed the patient?

Now that the death certificate has been drawn up these geniuses – whom we do not elect, but who nonetheless control our commercial universe – seem to be on the verge of some kind of epiphany.

They know that they have made something of a hames of the whole business.

All that anguish and sacrifice has achieved nothing, so they have hit upon plan B.

Print more money and do away with interest rates.

The banks can throw money around again like snuff at the wake, and there will be some version of quantitative easing.

Further evidence, as if it were needed, that if the EU is the answer it must have been a silly question!

D O’Brien, Connemara, Co Galway

Israel should look to itself

The Israeli ambassador to Ireland, Boaz Modai, criticises pro-Palestinian protesters by saying that they “show no respect for democracy, for dialogue and for the hospitality for which this country is famous”.

May I suggest that he promptly takes himself off to Palestine and helps promote such ideals, particularly among that particular groups of his fellow men who are clearly not familiar with such notions as applying to their neighbours.

Ted O’Keeffe, Ranelagh, Dublin 6

Irish Independent


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