Scotland decides

19 September 2014 Scotland decides

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. A quiet day

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast wt up rabbit for tea and her back pain is still there.


John McIlwaine – obituary

John McIlwaine was a forensic archaeologist who worked tirelessly to discover the remains of Northern Ireland’s ‘Disappeared’

John McIlwaine

John McIlwaine Photo: PA

5:55PM BST 18 Sep 2014


John McIlwaine, who has died suddenly aged 51, was a forensic archaeologist who led the team of excavators searching for the remains of Northern Ireland’s “Disappeared” — the people who had been kidnapped, killed and secretly buried by Republican terrorists in the 1970s and 1980s.

There were 16 people who “disappeared” during the Troubles. The IRA admitted responsibility for killing 13 of the 16, while the INLA admitted responsibility for one. No attribution has been given to the the remaining two. Under the intergovernmental agreement signed in 1998, the British and Irish governments agreed to establish a commission, known as the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains, to discover what happened to them.

The ICLVR’s remit is to obtain information, in confidence, which might lead to the location of the remains of victims of paramilitary violence and to oversee the effort to recover their bodies.

McIlwaine, an archaeologist specialising in forensic archaeology at Bradford University, began work with the ICLVR in 2006 and made a huge contribution to the commission’s work, leading a team of excavators which had to scour huge stretches of bleak landscape, often in atrocious conditions. Forensic archaeology involves the use of archaeological fieldcraft and geophysical techniques to help locate buried evidence. The painstaking excavation of a grave under archaeological conditions can provide valuable evidence on the time and circumstances of burial, the cause of death, and the techniques used for interment.

McIlwaine, who had himself grown up in Northern Ireland during the worst of the Troubles, was motivated by a deep compassion for the victims’ families which led him to work tirelessly to find the remains of their loved ones — a challenge which often ended in frustration and which took an enormous physical toll. To date nine bodies have been recovered, of which McIlwaine and his team found two.

In 2008 they uncovered the remains of Danny McIlhone, a 21-year-old west Belfast man suspected of being an informer by the IRA who went missing from his home in 1981, in bogland in Co Wicklow. Then in 2010, in another bog in Co Monaghan, they found the remains of Charlie Armstrong, a 57-year-old father-of-five from Crossmaglen, who went missing in 1981 and for whose death no one has yet admitted responsibility.

Whenever the press turned up to find out more about the man whose skills had led to the discovery of the bodies, McIlwaine, self-effacing to a fault, preferred to refer them to the families of the Disappeared. But he was much more than a technician. Sandra Peake, from the Wave Trauma Centre, which supports the families of the Disappeared, has described how he helped the families to come to terms with their bereavement: “John had a way of humanising the science which helped families understand more clearly what was being done to find their loved ones.”

John James McIlwaine was born on September 14 1963 in Hayle, Cornwall, but brought up in Portadown, Co Armagh, Northern Ireland, where he attended Portadown College.

After taking a degree in Archaeology at Lancaster University, he worked as a field archaeologist with, among others, the Vale of Pickering Trust and the Museum of London, and as excavation officer for three years at the Wood Hall Moated Manor Project, an early Medieval Manor House near Pontefract. He also devoted much energy to teaching, lecturing on courses run by the Workers Educational Association and tutoring at Wakefield College. In 1994 he was appointed co-ordinator for Continuing and Professional Education at the University of Bradford.

There he developed an interest in how archaeological fieldwork techniques could help in forensic crime investigation which led to the launch of an award-winning MSc course in Forensic Archaeology and Crime Scene Investigation.

As well as his work in Northern Ireland, McIlwaine worked as a consultant to several police forces in the North of England. He also continued to be involved in more traditional archaeology, undertaking work for both commercial organisations and government agencies and giving up evenings and weekends to support local archaeology and history groups.

He was planning new field investigations in Northern Ireland when he was taken ill.

John McIlwaine is survived by his wife and son.

John McIlwaine, born September 14 1963, died September 16 2014


Is it surprising that NHS hospitals are facing a deficit (Financial crunch tips NHS towards £1bn deficit, 16 September) when the so-called “efficiency savings” of 4% a year have been running for at least four years and the money for hospitals for doing the work (tariff and non-tariff) has been reduced every year. Mental health hospitals have had a bigger reduction in payments than other hospitals and there can be no rational reason or justification for that, particularly as Jeremy Hunt stated there was to be “parity of esteem” for the treatment of mental illness.

Simon Jenkins (Devolution of the NHS is next, 16 September) is wrong to say that there is a growing lobby of doctors calling for charges for GP care. The number is small, not growing and the call was decisively rejected at the BMA annual representative meeting this year. I am glad Jennifer Dixon of the Health Foundation agrees that the NHS needs more money (Letters, 18 September), but disagree with her solution.

Since managers took over the NHS in 1984, administrative costs have risen from 5% to 15.5% in 2011. The Commonwealth Fund, an independent US body recently placed the NHS at the top of the OECD league for efficiency. We believe that abolishing the purchaser-provider split and the market would save at least £10bn; and if Monitorand other “regulators” were also abolished, and clinicians really put in charge, we believe merging health and social care would improve services for patients and save money, once the system had bedded down.

I am not a conspiracy theorist, but the combination of tough language from the Department of Health; the yearly reduction in frontline funding; the fact that in the previous two years the NHS paid back over £3bn to the Treasury; and the continual denigration of the NHS from the centre; does make one suspicious that the NHS is being set up to fail so that the private sector will seem a more attractive option.

As David Cameron said during the floods, “We are a rich country”, and we can afford to provide a properly funded NHS. As Andrew Lansley said during the passage of the 2012 Health and Social Care Act: “No decision about me without me” and “clinicians will be in charge”. This has not happened, but we could try it – and ask NHS staff how to make the service run better, as well.
Wendy Savage
President, Keep Our NHS Public

• Urgent action must be taken to ensure that equal value is placed on patients’ mental and physical health and mental health patients are no longer let down by a lack of adequate care (Report,, 16 September). Repeated warnings that many mental health patients have to wait a dangerous amount of time for treatment have gone unheard and as a consequence thousands of people have attempted suicide while waiting for psychological treatment. Very simply, these people have been failed by the current system. Mental health in the UK is not universally held in the same regard as patients’ physical health, nor does it receive comparable levels of funding. There would be an outcry if patients with a physical illness were denied treatment or care due to cuts in funding, yet this is what we are seeing for those patients suffering from mental illness.

Waiting times for therapy treatments must be reduced, mental and physical health problems must be regarded with equal importance and provided with the same high levels of care, and training must be improved for medical trainees and doctors in how to deal appropriately with people with mental illness and to make any needed adjustments to their care to achieve positive outcomes.
Professor Sheila Hollins
Chair of the board of science, British Medical Association

• It’s astounding that the Labour party, which, in the NHS, created one of the greatest institutions this country has ever seen, feels it is a gamble to state clearly it will protect that institution. And, further, that it is a problem that “the service is likely to end the year £1bn in the red”. We, the taxpayer, supported the banking sector to the tune of hundreds of billions of pounds (which then found its way on to their balance sheets via QE). I feel I am more likely to need healthcare, free at the point of need, than I am a bank, most of which are not free and will largely abandon you in your hour of need. No, Labour, be plain and be clear, tell people you will protect the majority, not the privileged few. £1bn versus £375bn – no contest.

Healthcare before bankers.
Barnaby Stackhouse
Shepshed, Leicestershire

• This situation was common before the NHS came into being in 1948 (Poorer women receive worse maternity care, 17 September). Poor women could not afford to go to a doctor or hospital, with the result that they’d cope with childbirth themselves.

This resulted in multiple injuries for many and some couldn’t even walk without pain. I know because as a student nurse on a gynaecological ward I was able to help them when at last they did not have to pay. We must not allow this to happen again.
Joyce Morgan

Interest Rates The Bank of England. ‘London is not the “victim of its own success” but of its failure in its function as a capital,’ writes John Blodwell. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA

Your editorial (17 September) missed the point. London is not the “victim of its own success” but of its failure in its function as a capital. Surely the measure of its effectiveness is the performance of the national economy. The City, whose interests are the main focus of government economic policy, has negligible interest in investing in the country’s productive economy. If a factory is to be built that will actually make something and possibly sell some of its products abroad, it’s a pretty certain bet it will have to be financed by foreign capital. Yet there is a vast amount of money hoarded by British companies. Where are the tax incentives encouraging productive use of such resources and penalising its absence? It seems, for example, that there is no London interest in something as fundamental to the national interest as forming companies to build our own power stations.

It was once said Britain had lost an empire and not found a role. A role has been found: promoting London as a world financial capital. Since banking deregulation this priority has been given unlimited support by the political establishment. Yet the country cannot achieve solvency on the basis of this economic model. London cannot generate enough income for a country of 65 million. It is no wonder that patience is running short in the once great productive regions, now reduced to semi-mendicant status. Their zest for doing something about it is plain. But nothing will come of it without a transformation of the City. Simple devolution, necessary though it is, is not enough. The real issue facing the country is whether London can become a national capital as opposed to a city-state.
Dr John Blodwell
Newcastle upon Tyne

• For too long London (or Westminster to be more precise) has held too tight a sway on the nation’s life. The institutions which have held the UK together for the past three centuries are broken. The UK is no longer united. If the UK is to have a future, it can only be on the basis of reimagining what it means to be the UK in the 21st century.

One of the strongest complaints across the country is that the UK is run by and for the benefit of a Westminster elite. The evidence from Scotland is that devolving powers (though welcome in its own right) serves only to increase alienation and anger with Westminster. The risk is that focusing only on further devolution to the nations and English regions, will exacerbate this trend. Moving parliament to the north of England would not break the power of the City, but it would reduce its power over politics – and provide a huge economic boost to whichever city or region it moved to. It could help reshape politics away from the adversarial bear-pit of the Palace of Westminster and establish a more transparent, consensual political culture, no longer bound by centuries of tradition and procedure at Westminster. Parliament is already contemplating moving out of Westminster for a major refurbishment for up to five years. What could be a better symbolic way of reuniting the UK than moving parliament to the geographic centre of the country?
Niall Cooper
Director, Church Action on Poverty

Cabinet meeting, Downing Street, London, Britain - 09 Sep 2014 ‘Iain Duncan Smith is proud to announce a fall of 148,000 in the number of unemployed. He has no justification for his pride because millions of our youngsters can only get part-time, low-paid or insecure jobs,’ writes Brian Crews. Photograph: Amer Ghazzal/Rex

The latest statistics on employment continue to show strange contradictions and anomalies (Keep rates low, says City, after earnings fail to match job surge, 18 September). While employment is up, the number “economically inactive” has also grown (8.93 million). And the number of people classified as unemployed continues to exclude those claiming universal credit and those who are part-time carers also looking for work. There continues the peculiar fact that wage growth is effectively non-existent (but, on average, people are working longer hours – up 0.3%). This has an additional impact on the large numbers of students who are supposed to repay their loans – already nearly half of loans will never be repaid.

Other strange elements are the increase in home workers (including large numbers classified as managers) – 4.2 million; those declared self-employed (3.24 million); unpaid family workers – now 119,000; and those working who are 65 or over (1.1 million), most of these last three categories receiving state benefits of one sort or another. Most worrying is that in large parts of the country, people’s property prices are increasing faster than the average wage – in London it’s rougly three and half times that of the average wage.
Mark Bill

• What exactly is confusing Mr Carney and others about the failure of wage growth? It is blindingly obvious from each successive monthly release that employers are splitting one full-time job into four separate zero-hours contracts so that instead of one person being paid a living wage, four are getting subsistence wages. Mr Cable?
Phil Thomas
Heswall, Wirral

• Iain Duncan Smith is proud to announce a fall of 148,000 in the number of unemployed. He has no justification for his pride because millions of our youngsters can only get part-time, low-paid or insecure jobs. My granddaughter, whose graduation with a first I will be attending next week, has only been able to find a few hours in a retail business.

This is what Mr Duncan Smith calls employment: with earnings so low that her rent of a single room takes more than half of her earnings. If this is a situation to be proud of, I despair. What is needed is real jobs with career prospects, not a few crumbs spread ever thinner to make the figures look good.
Brian Crews
Beckenham, Kent

Boxes of food ready to be picked for distribution at a food bank. Labour’s commitment to austerity ‘will only intensify the social damage caused by austerity policies’. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA

The coalition’s spending plans for the next parliament are an intensification of austerity, demanding what even the Institute for Fiscal Studies calls unsustainable cuts to public services. Under the coalition, poverty has increased, living standards have fallen dramatically, and homelessness and dependence on food banks is rising. In contrast, corporate profits and reserves are holding up nicely and executive pay is increasing at more than 10 times the average wage.

Given that the Labour party started this parliament saying government austerity was “too far, too fast” it is extremely disappointing that the party leadership has said it will adhere to the coalition’s reintensified austerity for 2015-16. This commitment, including to the 1% pay cap policy, will only intensify the economic and social damage caused by austerity policies, and by reducing demand could easily see the UK slip back into recession. Labour must also end the race to the bottom on tax and regulation.

We urge Labour members, MPs, and trade unionists attending Labour party conference to demand an economic policy that boosts living standards and invests in the economy – and to save their party from a calamitous mistake.
John Christensen Tax Justice Network, Andrew Fisher LEAP economics, John Hilary War on Want, Richard Murphy Tax Research LLP, Ann Pettifor Prime Economics, Professor Prem Sikka, Mick Brooks

• I welcome new ways to make the NHS more efficient (Letters, 18 September). But how can Frank Field say £30bn of new revenue can’t be found for the NHS by the end of the next parliament? Five years of growth of 2.5%/year, as is usual, is 13% of GDP, recently worth £200bn, of which £30bn is 15%. That’s more than the low fraction spent on the NHS but why could it not be increased by this much? The answer is belief the budget deficit is a failure to balance the books so justifies austerity. But it’s due to excess global saving that must be borrowed to avoid a slump. This excess should be reduced by more spending, preferably on wages. Surely Field knows common sense is sometimes wrong?
George Talbot
Watford, Hertfordshire

The autumn sun shines through Japanese maple leaves The autumn sun shines through Japanese maple leaves. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

The Japanese maple is one of my favourite trees. Clive James could not have known the impact of his poem (17 September) for me. I am a Methodist chaplain in a large hospital. On Wednesday I was at the bedside of a lovely woman who had suffered a deep bereavement, then, a few minutes later, I was praying with someone who was close to death. So I arrived home emotionally very tired. Reading his poem over a much-needed cuppa grounded me solidly on this Earth again, while reminding me of the gap between all things spiritual and “Earthly sweet beauty as when fine rain falls, On that small tree”. Thank you so much, Clive, for being my Earthly pastor. And may you be richly blessed in the knowledge you have brought much joy and laughter to me and my husband on many occasions.
Carole Natton

• Thanks to Henning Mankell for sharing his thoughts on having incurable cancer (There are days full of darkness, G2, 17 September.) His observation, “One day we shall die. But all the other days we shall be alive” speaks to everyone, sick and healthy alike. And thanks to Clive James for the poetry he continues so bravely to write. “So much sweet beauty” puts into just four words how lovely the world becomes as we leave it.
Pat Sutherland

Displeased woman talking on phone in studio, (B&W) How phone use used to be … but today’s mobiles could perplex even more. Photograph: George Marks/Getty Images

I am writing to inquire whether anyone else has experienced what I believe is a previously undiscovered threat to human life from over-engineering in new technology. My 76-year-old mother recently bought a new mobile phone. She was sitting quietly and alone in her house at night, trying – but repeatedly failing – to send a text using the unfamiliar system. She finally gave up in exasperation and shouted: “Well fuck off then” at the phone. Whereupon a voice replied, with the eerie calm hitherto only mastered by HAL: “Have I done something wrong?” She did not know the phone was equipped with a speech app and is still in a state of physical and emotional collapse.
Dr Emma Wilson

Fitting solar pv panels to roof Solar panels … coming to a church roof near you? Photograph: Alamy

Your article suggested the main reason for the demise of many sleeper services is the growth in budget airlines (13 September). However, another, if not the main, reason for their decline is the growth in high-speed rail services across Europe. These make it possible for far longer distances to be covered in much reduced time thus obviating the need to travel overnight. This is a development to be welcomed as it has attracted considerable additional traffic to travel by train.
Ian David Markey (former BR manager)
Sherington, Buckinghamshire

• My colleague Michael Cunningham (Letters, 18 September) is wrong to claim that Russell Brand’s £25 routine is cheaper than his own witty politics lectures. £9,000 annual fees divided by the 216 hours students spend in class (much more is spent researching independently, of course) works out at just over £41.60 per hour. Having endured Dr Cunningham’s disquisitions frequently, I recommend them to readers as a bargain (though we both oppose tuition fees, of course, and yearn for the day they are freely available to all).
Dr Aidan Byrne
University of Wolverhampton

• To supplement the “Prophetic visions [that] can help to save the planet” (Comment, 10 September), Rowan Williams should urge his colleagues in the Church of England to install photovoltaic panels or tiles on the hundreds of south-facing roofs of churches found in almost every town and village in our country.
RF Gunstone

• Your correspondent Mike Gordon (Letters, 18 September) wonders why Prince Harry headed the birthdays list on 15 September. Some of us are probably more concerned that the prince doesn’t appear to have an occupation.
Graham Downie
Studley, Warkwickshire

• Now it’s all over, is it OK for non-Scots like me to incorporate swithering permanently into our vocabulary?
David Ward
Bollington, Cheshire


According to an article in The Independent (7 September), Katie Derham ‘‘wants to bring classical music to the masses and rid the Proms of its posh-people-only stereotype’’.

How many times in my 68 years have I heard this? Every one of them, probably. It really is time to scotch this nonsense. High art – complex plays, difficult paintings, intellectual music – requires not only a certain level of intelligence to uncover hidden meanings, but a degree of commitment to work at this ‘‘art’’ – a commitment which not everyone wants to make.

I, like many, am not terribly interested in the subtleties of pole-vaulting, so I don’t watch it and make no attempt to understand it. That doesn’t make pole-vaulters ‘‘posh’’ and ‘‘elitist’’, it makes me just not very interested in  pole-vaulting.

It’s time we stopped this folly of imagining ‘‘the masses’’ (whoever they are) are sitting there impatiently waiting to be exposed to Bach and then their lives will be complete. This is such arrogance! Maybe their lives are complete already? Maybe they’ll get along just fine without Bach?

No one ever says football is elitist because there are many millions of us who wouldn’t be seen dead going anywhere near a match. Why does classical music have to be any different? The irony is Katie Derham cites the Proms – of all occasions – as posh! If you held a pole-vaulting, or even, I suggest, a football match in the Royal Albert Hall every night for three months, would there be larger crowds? Could there be larger crowds? Classical music is difficult to understand. That’s it. Nothing more. Not everyone wants to commit the time and energy to understand it. That’s it. Nothing more.

Robert Walker


We need more organ donations

I hope that The Independent readers found Katy Charlton’s account of organ donation (Andy’s last wish,  16 September) a brave and inspiring read. Our thoughts are with Katy and her family at what must be an unimaginably heartbreaking time for them.  We hope that by reading Katy’s story, people will be able to see how important it was for her to honour her husband’s decision to be an organ donor and the comfort she takes knowing that she was able to spare five families from also going through the heartache of losing someone close to them.

Katy is a member of the Women’s Institute (WI) and earlier this year the WI passed a resolution to help raise awareness of organ donation. We are delighted that such an influential organisation is supporting organ donation and that their involvement helped Katy to make the decision that she did. We are working with more organisations throughout the UK which, like the WI, can help us to change public attitudes to organ donation so that more people donate when and if they can. Organ donation saves lives but with fewer than 5,000 people each year in the UK dying in circumstances where they can donate their organs, it’s important to make every opportunity count. Three people will die today and every day because there are not enough organs available. Join the Organ Donor Register and tell your family.

Sally Johnson
Director of Organ Donation and Transplantation

Media should reject stick-insect ideal

I enjoy reading The Independent and am respectful of its values as a newspaper. I also enjoy reading about fashion at times, but I did not on Saturday, 13 September, as I was confronted in the Independent Magazine by a picture of an emaciated and decidedly sick-looking young model, who could easily have passed for a famine victim, were it not for the cost of the clothes and shoes she was wearing.  This photograph opens the fashion section and is headed ‘‘Gang Leaders’’.  I think your editors should acknowledge the influence the media have on impressionable young girls and women, and face up to their moral responsibilities. Why succumb to the pressure of the fashion industry’s portrayal of the ideal figure as that of the stick insect? As an ex-teacher, I am aware of the damage that such  images can do.

Christine Renshaw
Maidstone, Kent


Journalism’s role in the rise of Isis

The apparent swiftness of the rise of Isis and its potential threat to the Western world can in part be attributed to journalism. Even at the beginning of the Syrian conflict many foreign correspondents, including  those coming from assignment in Libya, considered Syria too dangerous to operate safely in. In addition,  the reduction of foreign  bureaus and the increasing  reliance on wire services has meant Syria received  scant attention. Perhaps this trend in reporting needs to be seriously reconsidered by editors and board members?

Paul O’ Sullivan

Just how old is Rosie Millard?

Is Rosie Millard older than she looks? I can’t remember when I last saw “people in hats” singing hymns on Songs of Praise and I am 82.

Merrill Johns
Dover, Kent

Phones 4U and the companies act

Your articles on the Phones 4u story, assuming them to be true (18 September), miss a far more fundamental problem, sadly now very common. Under Section 151 of the Companies Act 1985, a company’s provision of financial assistance to purchase its own shares was a criminal offence. Such provision would include unusual dividends.

The purpose of the rule was to stop the very thing to which your coverage refers. These rules had in one form or another been around since Victorian times but were then so watered down in the Companies Act 2006 as to render them ineffective. Who lobbied for this change? I’ll put my money on Private Equity being part of that story. So get some lessons from lawyers experienced in Company Law and start investigating this outrageous change in 2006.

Christopher Yaxley 

After weeks of increasingly vitriolic and divisive debate about Scottish independence I’m suffering from referendum fatigue. Can you imagine what it’s going to be like in 2017 if we decide to have a referendum on Europe? With so much of the world already tearing itself apart, do we really have to  join them?

Stan Labovitch

One of the reasons Sarah Bart (letters, 16 September) has given for deciding to vote Yes in Scotland’s referendum is that Westminster MPs ‘‘were found with their fingers in the till’’. Curious judgement. Does she not know that Alex Salmond was a Westminster MP at the time of the expenses scandal, and was one of the many MPs who had made questionable expenses claims. The details were published in the Complete Expenses Files supplement published by the Daily Telegraph in June 2009.

his and other such information concerning Mr Salmond is readily available on the internet.

John Elder
Chepstow, Monmouthshire

When Harold Wilson held a referendum on Europe in 1975 he made sure that the question was asked in such a way that the side he wanted to win staying in Europe was the ‘Yes’ side of the argument. First can I ask please who negotiated the question on Scottish independence in such a way as to allow the SNP the advantage of this Yes factor? Secondly why was the referendum held so early? Alex Salmond wanted to postpone the voting by two years.

The Scottish vote might have easily taken place after next year’s general election. Referendums on Scottish matters have always taken place in the past during Labour governments.

Hasn’t that always favoured the United Kingdom staying together? This argument, of course, assumes a Labour victory next year. Third and last, why didn’t we have a referendum on Europe first and then a referendum on Scottish independence? Uncertainty over English people’s commitment to the EU has played a big part. These three factors had an enormous impact on yesterday’s vote in Scotland. Who handed these advantages to Alex Salmond? We haven’t really had a PM who knew what he was doing since Harold Wilson have we?

Nigel F Boddy

Richard Topping (17 September) repeats the myth that Margaret Thatcher used Scotland as a “guinea pig” for her poll tax. In fact a rating revaluation was due in Scotland, which would have seen the rateable values of many properties (which had not been re-valued for many years) increase dramatically. This would have caused financial difficulties for many people and was thought likely to trigger an electoral backlash against the then Conservative Government. To avoid this, Mrs Thatcher’s Government cancelled the rating re-valuation and introduced the poll tax a year earlier in Scotland. Ironically, this led to a different electoral backlash, which ultimately resulted in Mrs Thatcher’s downfall.

Brian Jones
Garforth, Leeds


Sir, The picture of the London property market painted by Shadow London Minister Sadiq Khan (Sept 18) does not stand up to scrutiny or represent the reality of the situation in Westminster. Earlier this summer, this council commissioned the first detailed analysis of London’s prime and super-prime residential market from independent consultant Ramidus Consulting, whose findings strongly countered the perception that overseas investors are buying high-value properties in London as an investment and leaving them empty. On the contrary, the majority of such properties are occupied by owners or rented by London workers — the perception of “ghost homes or communities” is not true. Moreover, the report found that this market is such a small sector of London’s property market that it does not have a significant impact on prices further down the chain. It did, however, show the huge contribution that the owners of super-prime properties make to the economy — estimated to be £2.3 billion a year. Mr Khan’s interpretation, based on a single set of figures obtained through one Parliamentary question, does nothing to help London’s economy or the attempts of councils to provide affordable housing to the capital’s residents.
Philippa Roe
Leader, Westminster City Council

Sir, Yesterday I travelled on the top deck of a bus between Kensington Olympia and Holland Park. It was obvious that most of the houses I passed were unoccupied. A mansion tax is one way to approach this problem, but this discriminates against UK resident owner-occupiers. Another way is to introduce some form of land value taxation (LVT). My late mother was an advocate of LVT for most her life; I thought she was mad but now I realise how forward-thinking and sensible she was.
Janet Davies
London W14

Sir, The article on Alan Johnson (Sept 17) reminds me of a saying in a factory many years ago. “It is easier for a fitter’s mate to become prime minister than to become a fitter.” For without serving an apprenticeship it was impossible to become a fitter.
Max Lines
Frome, Somerset

Sir, The “have a nice day” culture has invaded the internet. Completing an online form, I entered my first name and got an ingratiating “Hello, Reg!” So far, so creepy. When I added my surname the algorithm responded with “Great name!” At this point I logged out. Give me BSI (British Sullen Indifference) every time.
Reg Manser
Cranleigh, Surrey

Sir, Times2 (Sept 17) has on its cover “Oh you pretty thing . . . London fashion lightens up”. A glance inside shows the usual scowling, arrogant-looking, models. Shouldn’t “lighten up” also include a smile or two?
Jeremy Hornsby
London N1

Sir, Oliver Kamm (Notebook, Sept 16) does well to remind us of the chilling impression created by Ian Paisley. It was his frequent appearances on television which gave vast numbers of people in Britain the illusion that Ulster Unionists were a horde of religious maniacs and political fanatics, an alien breed for whose welfare a malign fate had made the British responsible. In this way, he did more damage to the Union than any other politician of the day.
Lord Lexden
London SW1

Sir, Having been a childhood fan of war films, and not aware of his TV or theatre work, I was shocked to read the obituary of Angus Lennie (Sept 17). While at an impressionable age I saw him die so many times, I never contemplated a different reality. I discovered this too late.
Alistair Cliff


Sir, Professor Patnick’s belief that randomised control trials are ethical in and of themselves is worrying (report, Sept 17). I recently declined an invitation to have breast cancer screening, having become aware of the risk of over-diagnosis. The Harding Centre for Risk Literacy has done good work on this and Professor Patnick, as director of NHS cancer screening, should be aware of it. I looked in vain in the literature that came with my invitation for the numbers that would enable me to make an informed decision. Some 32 years ago, I was an unwitting participant in a randomised control trial, part of a project conducted by midwives. I assumed I was signing up for an emergency caesarean, should the need arise. When I protested that I had not given informed consent to a randomised episiotomy trial — no woman in her right mind would do so — I was rebuffed at the highest level on the grounds that the trial met the ethical standards required. I still wonder how many babies’ lives were damaged by that trial.
Patricia Mulcahy
Henley-on-Thames, Oxon



Militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) posing with the trademark Jihadists flag after they allegedly seized an Iraqi army checkpoint in the northern Iraqi province of Salahuddin in June 2014

Militants of the Islamic State posing with the trademark Jihadists flag after they allegedly seized an Iraqi army checkpoint in the northern Iraqi province of Salahuddin in June 2014 Photo: AFP

6:59AM BST 18 Sep 2014


SIR – The question that no one appears to be addressing with regard to potential military action against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is: where do you drive the fighters?

Isil is not a country, which could potentially surrender. Their fighters are within other people’s countries. We could possibly push them out of Iraq, and perhaps Syria, but where to?

Isil has fighters of various nationalities. Might they just return to their original countries and create mayhem from there?

Mark Allsop
Menheniot, Cornwall

SIR – Muslims, in particular, must stop Isil, which is composed of people who have vowed to establish a blood-drenched caliphate in which only their distorted version of Islam – a fusion of misogyny, intolerance and mayhem – will hold sway.

We have an obligation to snatch our faith from the clutches of these killers. These so-called Muslims are damaging Islam and dishonouring the Prophet.

Dr Hasanat Husain
Woodford, Essex

Paisley and violence

SIR – In his assessment of the career of Ian Paisley, Lord Bew connects the end of the Troubles in Northern Ireland with the decline of religion. If anything, the reverse is true: secularisation prolonged the Troubles.

The IRA did not heed the Pope’s plea for peace in 1979; the so-called loyalists who committed acts of terror against Catholics tended to be cultural Protestants rather than religious believers. Violent men acted against the voices of the main churches.

C D C Armstrong

Merchant of Beijing

SIR – The entire works of Shakespeare are to be translated into Mandarin (report, September 13).

When will they be translated into everyday, understandable English?

Roger Croston
Christleton, Cheshire

Beginning in Béganne

SIR – My current husband and I moved to France to start a new life: beginning again in Béganne. How unfortunate, then, that our French neighbours on either side should be Madame Suzanne and Monsieur Martin – the exact Christian names of our former spouses.

Julia Evans
Béganne, Morbihan, France

Tip off

SIR – Bill Thompson suggests (Letters, September 16) that the Today programme’s daily tips on the nags encourage children to gamble.

I would have thought that the exact opposite is true for, given the programme’s forecasting success, most sensible children would be deterred from further exposure to gambling in a fairly short time.

Anthony Freeland
London SW10

Shocking soup

SIR – Having seen advertisements for a “folding wooden dog ramp” and an “electric soup maker” this week, I thought I would get a folding wooden dog and feed him on electric soup.

Tony Hill
Lancing, West Sussex

The independence campaign has betrayed Scotland’s enlightened identity

Shrinking the vision of hte Scottish Enlightenment

Tails who wins? A Better Together poster in Edinburgh with a Yes campaign sticker added

Tails who wins? A Better Together poster in Edinburgh with a Yes campaign sticker added  Photo: Getty Images

7:00AM BST 18 Sep 2014


SIR – Born in the same place as William Wallace, educated at a Scottish state school and then a Scottish university, I have always been a proud Scot.

In particular I am proud of Scottish education and its reputation abroad. My Irish grandfather worked on the Clyde, my English grandmother in service and both my Scottish grandparents farmed in the Borders. Their belief in education ensured that I was the first of my family to go to university.

A good education can raise children to distinction, a point underlined by Arthur Herman’s The Scottish Enlightenment (which was published in the United States as How Scots Invented the Modern World.) The Scottish Enlightenment flourished as a consequence of the Union.

Yet now, to me living in England, a narrowing of outlook is evident, and the saltire on my car leads to assumptions that I must be a nationalist, since the flag has been hijacked by the Yes campaign.

I deeply resent being made to feel “less than Scottish” by the insinuations of the Yes campaign, though I agree with them that, as a Scot, I am defined as much by my future as my past. But I am being denied that, without a voice or a say.

The only thing that depresses me more is the dressing up of the breathtaking political cynicism in this referendum as “democracy at its best”. In the 18th century, Scots were intent upon advancing human understanding. No one has been enlightened by this referendum, or raised to distinction through it. That is the real betrayal of Scottish identity and of our inheritance as a nation within the Union.

Mark Lauder
Headmaster, Ashville College
Harrogate, North Yorkshire

SIR – I have just returned from Botswana and South Africa, where Commonwealth friends are deeply concerned that a Scottish breakaway from the United Kingdom could encourage similar – but bloody and destructive – secessionist movements in Africa.

Scotland already enjoys a national identity in many Commonwealth bodies, as was shown by the highly successful Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. This should be built upon further.

Carl Wright
Secretary-General Commonwealth Local Government Forum
London WC2

SIR – Alex Salmond and the SNP have repeatedly stated that they would be less likely than Westminster to become involved in foreign wars, and that this would reduce conflict.

Surely the opposite would be the likely outcome. With a Scottish Army of 4,700 (of whom 1,700 would be front-line troops), a fleet of one or two frigates or destroyers, and eight fighter aircraft, an independent Scotland would be incapable of preventing a hostile fleet from passing through the Northern Approaches.

Furthermore, as an anti-nuclear country, Scotland would not be a member of Nato, and would not be able to call on assistance from any allies.

This opening of the door into the North Atlantic will not have gone unnoticed in Moscow, where Vladimir Putin has repeatedly shown willingness to embark on military adventures .

Clive Kent
Heathfield, East Sussex

SIR – I can’t help thinking that Alex Salmond’s philosophical position is inconsistent. He battles for independence and wants Scotland to have more power over its own affairs, but he also strives to remain part of the EU. The record of the EU is to remove powers from member nations and centralise decision-making to Brussels. This is the driving force for Ukip and feeds the clamour for an EU referendum. What does the egotistical Mr Salmond really want?

Mick Ferrie
Mawnan Smith, Cornwall

SIR – I have had to travel to an English hospital for cancer treatment not available to me in Scotland. My son has also had to be transferred to the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle to obtain life-saving treatment.

If Scotland votes Yes today, what impact will this have on those like us?

James Webster
Blairgowrie, Perthshire

SIR – An extraordinary aspect of the referendum is that the Scottish National Party assures the electorate of all manner of things that will be achieved with a Yes decision, but fails to mention that it too has an election round the corner in 2016.

Its majority is wafer thin, with 65 seats out of a total of 128. The possibility that it will lose is real. If this happens, all Alex Salmond’s promises go out the window.

Peter Rutherford
London NW6

SIR – Waiting upon the outcome of the referendum, the main Westminster parties have promised that the Barnett formula is to be retained if there is a No vote, giving Scots more spending per head than the rest of the United Kingdom.

Lord Barnett himself, who established the formula, has said that it is “grossly unfair” to the people of England. It is intended largely as a bribe to the Scots. In the words of Robert Burns, is Scotland to be “bought and sold for English gold”?

Jonathan C Simons
Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire

SIR – For the last few weeks I have given up all news outlets (apart from the Telegraph) and turned instead to music on Classic FM. It has been marvellous. Thank you, Scotland.

Margaret O’Connell
Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire

SIR – Was the Better Together campaign quick to respond to Gillian Degnan’s photograph of a cloud with a detached Scotland (September 16) by arranging for this cloud to appear over Hampshire?

Alan Turner
Hook, Hampshire

SIR – I was pleased to hear a BBC newsreader say the referendum was “neck and neck”. A welcome change to the overdone American “down to the wire” and “too close to call”.

Edward Huxley
Thorpe, Surrey

SIR – If the result is a dead heat, will the issue be decided by the toss of a coin? If so what currency should be used?

Eldon Sandys
Pyrford, Surrey

Irish Times:

A chara, – In his recent address to the Royal Irish Academy (“Scotland shows 1916 Rising a mistake, says Bruton”, September 18th), John Bruton made a very daring attempt to predict what never happened.

There may be some similarities between Scotland today and Ireland 100 years ago. The differences, however, are many and there are three that are crucial.

Scotland does not have an armed militia, like that of the UVF, which was allowed to organise and arm itself in the open to oppose reform. There is also not a seemingly interminable world war happening on our doorsteps. Neither will Scotland have to deal with the agony of internal partition, which was written into the Third Home Rule Bill in Ireland since 1912.

Violence and partition were political realities in Ireland well before 1916. Thankfully, they are not in Scotland in 2014. – Yours, etc,


Cearnóg an Ghraeigh,

Baile Átha Cliath 8.

Sir, – The 1916 Rising is a fact and attempting to retrospectively justify or condemn the actions of Pearse et al is a spectacular waste of newsprint. Spare us, please, the historical fetishism and fantasy.

In this centenary of commemorations, let’s deal with each event objectively. Looking into our hearts and making conclusions based on “what ifs” and “might have beens” is a peculiarly Irish character flaw and one which I hope will be struck out by future generations. – Yours, etc,




Co Clare.

Sir, – John Bruton has conflated the Irish home rule movement and the Scottish independence referendum.

He is picking and choosing facts for a nice piece of pointless revisionism. In 1914 Ulster was armed to the teeth; so was the south but that was mainly a reaction to the formation of the Ulster Volunteers.

To take a page from Mr Bruton’s book, ie pointless and spurious historical revisionism, I would say that if the first World War had not broken out, there would have been a civil war in Ulster if all-Ireland home rule was granted as planned in 1914. That is essentially what they were planning anyway, with the weird doctrine of disloyal loyalty. Remember that 237,368 men and 234,046 women signed the Ulster Covenant specifically pledging themselves to oppose home rule at any cost. Whereas in the south there were the Irish Volunteers, with a strength of some 200,000, formed to protect home rule. Not only would home rule have led to a war, it is entirely possible to assume that this war would have been on a far greater scale, with much greater loss of life.

This is all of course absent in Scotland, making his comparison somewhat less than apt. – Yours, etc,


Margaret Street,


Sir, – Billy Timmins is quoted as saying that “The Irish Parliamentary Party and John Redmond had no political descendants” (“Woodenbridge park to mark Wicklow dead of first World War”, September 18th).

Garret FitzGerald for one recognised that their traditions and values were very well represented in Fine Gael. I recall him saying more than once that he was particularly well placed to persuade the Fine Gael party to accept compromises on traditional nationalist positions on Northern Ireland because the FitzGeralds were from the original Sinn Féin founding wing of Cumann na nGaedhael/Fine Gael. The suggestion being that other Fine Gael leaders such as Dillon and Bruton were temperamentally unsuitable to dealing with republican nationalists because they represented the Irish Parliamentary Party and the Redmondite traditions of deeply rooted antipathy to use of violence for political ends and their absolute adherence to the principles of parliamentary democracy.

John Bruton as taoiseach had a portrait of John Redmond in his office and it was not there because they went to the same school.

The Irish Parliamentary Party tradition did not evaporate – it adapted to independence and continued its adherence to parliamentary democracy.

One wonders where we might have gone without it. – Yours, etc,


Moyclare Close,


Dublin 13.

Sir, – It should not be forgotten by your newspaper that same-sex marriage will shortly be the subject of a referendum, in which citizens will be required to examine the pros and cons of a fundamental change in a key building block of our society. Jennifer O’Connell in her column (“Two men and a baby now so wonderfully ordinary”, September 15th) described how “special and wonderful and beautifully ordinary” her meeting was with two new fathers she met in a local park last week. Their new baby was two days old and had been born three weeks premature. They did not live in Ireland, but had come from Germany to “get” the baby!

It did not seem to occur to Jennifer that this baby had at least one further parent (who was not present) and that the baby might never be allowed to know who her genetic mother was, or indeed where she continues to live. There was no mention of the pangs of separation being suffered by the birth mother, or the fact that the baby would never bond with her mother or be breast-fed. She would forever be a motherless child.

Has Jennifer no knowledge of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the right of a child “to know and be cared for by his or her parents” (Article 7)? Has she never read Article 9.2, that speaks of the right of a child “to maintain personal relations and direct contact with both parents on a regular basis except if it is contrary to the child’s best interests”? Nowhere are the rights or wishes of parents given precedence over the fundamental rights of a child.

Has Jennifer not seen the film Philomena? Why are nuns cast as heinous monsters for depriving a baby of knowledge of its birth mother, whilst two fathers, who may very well be doing exactly the same thing in a premeditated way, are not questioned at all on this issue by a passing journalist? Instead, they are lauded for “doing something wonderful and beautifully ordinary”!

The baby in the accompanying photo was clearly a lot older than two weeks old.

This uncritical approach to same-sex marriage is not worthy of a newspaper such as The Irish Times. – Yours, etc,



Beechwood Lawn,

Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Jennifer O’Connell writes of the phenomenon of homosexual couples parenting and how it is becoming “wonderfully ordinary”. By drawing attention to this welcome phenomenon, she is making it extraordinary. Rather than allow homosexual parents feel accepted and – dare I say it – “normal”, such articles in fact do the opposite. – Yours, etc,


Synge Street,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – I refer to “Timeline of penalty points controversy” (September 17th). Unfortunately, the timeline omits matters of substantial relevance. They include the following:

September 2012: Correspondence containing a large number of allegations that fixed-charge notices had been improperly cancelled by members of An Garda Síochána furnished to the Garda Commissioner with a request that the allegations be fully investigated, without revealing the name or identity of the member of An Garda Síochána who made the complaint.

May 2013: The publication of the O’Mahoney Report, and a related report by the Garda Professional Standards Unit, detailing the findings of the investigation, an examination of the processes and systems in place to deal with the cancellation of fixed-charge notices and recommendations to ensure the integrity of the system. As minister for justice, in implementation of the recommendations contained in the two reports, I asked the Garda Commissioner to ensure that seven essential principles were incorporated and made central to the decision making process in relation to fixed-charge notices. These were:

1. There must be no question mark hanging over the integrity of the fixed-charge notice system and in the application of penalty points. 2. No individual should receive preferential treatment because of their perceived status, relationship or celebrity. 3. The law and any discretionary application of it to individuals must be administered fairly, with compassion and common sense. 4. No member of the Garda force should feel compelled by a person’s position, relationship or celebrity status to treat that person any more or less favourably than any other person. 5. There must be proper oversight and transparency to the discretionary decision-making process and the applicable rules and procedures must be fully complied with. 6. All statutory provisions, regulations, rules, protocols and procedures applicable to the termination of fixed-charge notices must be readily accessible to all members of the Garda force and the circumstances, factors and procedures applicable to the termination of fixed-charge notices should be detailed clearly on the Garda website for the information of members of the public. 7. Where application is made to terminate a fixed ticket charge, where possible and appropriate, material to support any application made should be sought while understanding in some circumstances no such material may exist or be obtainable.

Additionally, due to my concerns to ensure that no further difficulties arose and at some of the decisions made in cancelling fixed-charge notices, which I described in a statement of the May 15th, 2013, as defying “logic and common sense”, as minister I referred both reports to the Joint Oireachtas Justice Committee to enable it hold such hearings as it deemed appropriate and make any necessary further recommendations. I also asked the independent Garda Inspectorate to examine the matter and the recommendations received to ensure the difficulties that had arisen did not reoccur.

As you record, the report of the inspectorate was published in March 2014 and its further recommendations fully implemented.

January 2014: Following Sgt McCabe making additional allegations concerning the cancellation of fixed-charge notices, at a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee, as minister, I asked the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission to conduct an investigation into the new allegations made and also to revisit the original allegations.

Unfortunately, the omission of the above matters from your timeline could give credence to the false accusation made during my time as minister that the allegations made by Sgt Maurice McCabe regarding the fixed-charge notice processing system were ignored and not taken seriously.

This is very far from the truth, as would be evident to anyone revisiting the statement issued by me on May 15th, 2013. – Yours, etc,


Leinster House,

Kildare Street,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – Any optimism about our “economic recovery” is surely tempered by listening to debates on national radio about whether or not qualified teachers should be paid €50 on top of their social welfare payment for a full week’s work (“O’Sullivan pledges to ensure no abuse of JobBridge scheme”, September 18th). Education is the indispensable foundation of a country’s social and economic future development. It offers the next generation the opportunity to acquire the knowledge and skills to live fulfilling lives and contribute successfully to society and economic growth.

Government spending on education is an investment in the future for all of us. That we have become so inured to injustice that anyone, least of all the professional teachers to whom we entrust the care and education of our children, could be expected to work for €50 a week is an utter travesty.

Rail workers, refuse collectors and nursing staff have also been driven to strikes and protests due to continued deterioration of their pay and working conditions. These measures are politically justified by the requirements of “austerity” and “fiscal adjustment”. Meanwhile, 17 bankers in Ireland were paid an average of more than €1.2 million each in 2012, with 10 investment bankers and three retail bankers earning more than €1.4 million each.

The inevitable outcome of decades of financial deregulation is that unelected and unaccountable bankers now effectively run the world. They feather their own nests while ordinary workers, both public and private, are reduced to serfs in a regressive, exploitative neo-feudal system. These new aristocrats offer nothing but a vision of unhindered private profiteering for the top 1 per cent and their lackeys; and austerity, discipline and ultimately impoverishment for the rest of us. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 6.

Sir, – I share Pat McArdle’s amazement (September 17th) at the apparent need to call a postcode an “Eircode”. I blame in part the framers of the Constitution and the utterly pointless double naming of the country in Article 4. Had they called the country Ireland and left Éire to the Irish-language text, many things would be a lot simpler.

Mr McArdle is right to suspect the appeal of “uniquely Irish” names for the Eircode mess; to that, I would add a uniquely Irish addiction to ambiguity. – Yours, etc,



Helsinki, Finland.

Sir, – “The mountains labour and a ridiculous (and confused) mouse is born”.

It is distressing to read that after such a long wait we are to be saddled with a system that will be more unhelpful to business and the man in the street than that which already pertains. Imagine asking directions to four random numbers?

The fact that it will require the purchase of special equipment to interpret implies the protection of vested interests. Surely we deserve something simpler and better. – Yours, etc,


Montpelier Parade,

Monkstown, Co Dublin.

A chara, – Pat McArdle asks, “Why do we have to insist on giving everything a ‘uniquely Irish’ name?” Whatever about the name, to reflect both languages, the postchód/postcode could have omitted the letters JKQWXYZ. –Is mise,


An Pháirc Thiar,


Co Chill Mhantáin.

A chara, – Joe Humphreys in his “Cog Notes” column (September 16th) is very wide of the mark when he describes the position of ASTI and TUI on the Framework for Junior Cycle document as a “rejectionist stance”. On the contrary, the position of both unions is and has been positive and protective of the best traditions in Junior Cycle education in Ireland. In seeking the retention of State certification and external assessment, we are endeavouring to safeguard consistent educational standards across the country in the interests of all of our students.

We have been measured and responsible in our joint campaign against then minister for Education’s Ruairí Quinn’s decision (without consultation with ASTI, the National Council for Curriculum Assessment or any of the education partners) to abolish the Junior Certificate in October 2012. Incidentally it was Mr Quinn who rejected the NCCA’s advice of 2011.

What has changed now is the decision of the new Minister, Jan O’Sullivan, to persist with implementation of the framework in the absence of agreement with the second-level teacher unions on the key areas of assessment and certification.

It is imperative that teachers in the ASTI ballot send a strong message to Ms O’Sullivan in advance of the talks due to take place in October. – Yours, etc,


President, ASTI,

Thomas MacDonagh House,

Winetavern Street,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – Whatever the result, it must be said that Alex Salmond is a remarkable man. Using entirely peaceful means he is on the cusp of achieving dramatic constitutional change. He has successfully led a coalition that includes trade unions, pop stars, hedge fund managers and possibly Rupert Murdoch. He argues that independence is necessary both to protect the welfare state and at the same time to promote business in Scotland. Such a broad nationalist coalition is not without precedent. I believe that Mr Salmond is the reincarnation of Charles Stewart Parnell. – Yours, etc,


Wilfield Road,


Dublin 4.

Sir, – Passing through Dublin Airport’s Terminal One this week I paid €2.49 for a single, unadorned croissant. Is this a record? – Yours, etc,



Dublin 14.

Sir, – There was a time when I would have been happily among the tractor fans as described by Frank McNally (“Irishman’s Diary”, September 18th) but that day is over. I’m now an extractor fan. – Yours, etc,



Tralee, Co Kerry.

Irish Independent:

I am sure many of your readers saw the “debate” on ‘Primetime’ between John Bruton, Eamon O’Cuiv, Michael McDowell and Kevin Myers on the legacy of 1916 and its place in Irish history.

Many points were raised and many were, depending on perspective, valid.

All were missing a very important point about 1916.

The reason for 1916 sticking in the Irish psyche as a flashpoint in our history is that the men in the GPO and Boland’s Mill and other points throughout the city during that fateful weekend had rifles. They had limited ammunition and no explosives. The opposing Imperial troops had cannon and a gunboat and used a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

This, allied with the fact that the Rising leaders were offered only a military trial and were subsequently executed, is where the real story of 1916 as the birth of our nation is – 1916 was when Britain proved through violence that it did not wish to allow self-determination in Ireland. It was the very coalface of the tradition of monarchy versus republic that hadn’t been seen since the late 1700s in France and America.

If you imagine yourself back in those times, the Irish had – since its parliament had been voted away by, according to many accounts, a drunken mob of parliamentarians in 1800 – been subjected to great hardships by a parliament in London. The Famine, Land War, tenement slums and the Lockout had all preceded 1916, as had two years of World War I, which saw men from many families trade their lives for a letter from some British Army officer who would have shot the same men if they refused to charge into no man’s land.

The history of Ireland under direct rule from London, which had only lasted for four or five generations, was one of the most harrowing of any people who produced so much wealth for little reward. Indeed, Van Diemen’s Land was, for many, no worse than the conditions that had given rise to the actions that put them on that one-way ticket.

Dermot Ryan, Athenry, Galway

Scotland’s day of destiny

This morning, David Cameron may well be ruing his decision not to offer the Scots maximum devolution.

Although English, I will be sad if the Union has come to an end, but I hope the Scottish people would have grasped the monumental opportunity for independence.

Whatever the financial cost, if I were a Scot, I would prefer freedom from Westminster than to be treated as a second-rate citizen. If the vote was “No”, the change will still be huge.

The present UK coalition government is dominated by the undisguised ambitions of Boris Johnson plotting to seize the Tory leadership and premiership after the next election. The ‘Old Etonion Mafia’ are more in tune with champagne and caviar, than the bread and butter needs of the ordinary Briton. Only the clever man can act the clown. This morning, Alex Salmond may well have made a mockery of England’s so-called political ‘elite’.

If so, the Scots’ wrath will only have been the first to be delivered last night. The English will deliver the rest in due course.

Dominic Shelmerdine, London SW3, UK

Dirty secret of the ‘Great War’

There has been much commentary about the so-called ‘Great War’ over the last few months. However, the ruthless execution of 346 men in the course of that war was kept secret for many years.

The authorities in Britain finally relented, giving access to the court martial files of those men to retired judge Anthony Babington (an Irishman). He wrote an account of the deaths in a book, ‘For the Sake of Example’.

It is a horrific tale of callous destruction without mercy of the lives of many young men. The policies and the promulgation of sentences came from General Staff, who were for the most part based in comfortable chateaus far from the front lines.

The men in the trenches faced repeated orders to go “over the top” to face the German machine guns. It was over the top to your death or refuse and face certain death from your own side.

Great War indeed.

Harry Mulhern, Millbrook Road, Dublin

Mind your language

Now that we’ve all agreed to stop skinning cats, perhaps it’s time to ban expressions like “I’ll kill him!” and “you’re dead” lest they normalise the practice of murdering people?

Tom Farrell, Swords, Co Dublin

Mary Lou’s flight of fancy

Regarding the Mary Lou McDonald flight affair, Brendan Dunleavy (Letters, Irish Independent September 17) quotes Marx’s riposte that when the revolution came everyone would be travelling first class. He mentions that even Michael O’Leary has introduced business class.

This brings to mind another Michael O’Leary (the late TD and minister) who, when admonished for smoking a cigar as he arrived for a union meeting, blew a large cloud of smoke and simply said, “nothing is too good for the workers”.

John F Jordan, Killiney, Dublin

History is repeating itself in Iraq

A new book by Ian Rutledge entitled ‘Enemy on the Euphrates’ illustrates clearly how in the present “crisis” in Iraq, Isil should not be a surprise to the British Government They have faced it all before.

In 1915, the infamous Sir Mark Sykes, the British diplomat who framed the Sykes/Picot agreement which carved up the Middle East between Britain and France, said “the Muslim intellectual uses the clothes of Europe and has lost his belief in his creed, but the hatred of Christendom and a lust for the domination of Islam as a supreme political (goal) remains.”

In 1920 there was a huge rebellion against the British rule in Iraq. It was a greater threat than any other anti-British uprising in modern times, with 131,000 Arabs under arms, in which tribal and religious conservatives led the insurrection.

This revolt was eventually brought to its knees. The British went on a village-burning exercise to teach the Iraqis a lesson they would never forget. From the air, the RAF chased men and women into the swamps and machined gunned them there.

An example is a quote from Air Commodore “Biffy” Borton about a 1921 attack by eight aircraft at Nassariyah, “The tribesmen and their families were put to confusion, many of them who ran into the lake making good targets for the machine guns.”

It is little wonder, then, that the present Isil will seek revenge when it’s possible that their grandparents were victims of British justice two generations ago?

Hugh Duffy, Cleggan, Co Galway

Feminist confusion in deacon row

In relation to Bishop O’Reilly seeking candidates for deacon training (Irish Independent, September 3), women in Killaloe diocese should acknowledge the difference in the Catholic Church between power and authority.

Feminists seem to confuse democratic systems with hierarchy; the authority of consecrated clergy comes from almighty God, whom we lovingly obey as Jesus taught us. Women have always served the people of God through many roles – advisors, missionaries, mothers, wives, nurses, teachers, etc.

Many parish and diocesan positions are well served by lay people. Though fallible humans, God shares His creativity with us through many religions and none. The courage of churchmen is admirable.

BJ O’Connor (Mrs), Carlow

Irish Independent

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 17:  Bagpiper Craig Lawrie plays on Westminster Bridge in front of the Houses of Parliament on September 17, 2014 in London, England. The Scottish referendum debate has entered its final day of campaigning as the Scottish people prepare to go to the polls tomorrow to decide whether or not Scotland should have independence and break away from the United Kingdom.  (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

More in Letters (2 of 20 articles)

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