24 September 2014 Cleaning

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A busy day. Co op, and post office Cleaned the car for Mercedes tomorrow

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


John Moat – obituary

John Moat was a Devon-based poet who, with John Fairfax, established the Arvon Foundation nearly 50 years ago

John Moat, poet, novelist, painter and co-founder of the Arvon Foundation pictured at Endsleigh

John Moat, poet, novelist, painter and co-founder of the Arvon Foundation pictured at Endsleigh

5:29PM BST 23 Sep 2014


John Moat, who has died aged 78, was a poet, novelist and painter who also taught and inspired countless other writers through the Arvon Foundation, which he founded nearly 50 years ago with his friend John Fairfax.

The two men – Fairfax was also a poet – thought up Arvon over a few beers in a Devon pub. The principle was that people of all ages would be helped to liberate their imaginations and learn to write by sharing the company of professional writers.

Moat and Fairfax led the first Arvon residential course at Beaford arts centre in central Devon in 1968. Sixteen children, who had hardly encountered poetry in their schools, were put through an experience that was somewhere between that of an artistic boot camp and a retreat in a Trappist monastery. They were sustained by John Moat’s concoction of scrag-end of lamb and cider that he called “Devonshire Poet’s Stew”. As Moat put it: “This was in case they should be served any fancy ideas about life as a poet.”

The Arvon Foundation has thrived for almost half a century. In that time, several thousand budding writers have attended Arvon courses at four rural centres, tutored by more than 1,500 practising poets, playwrights and authors. Moat’s wife Antoinette provided the first residential centre, Totleigh Barton, a pre-Domesday thatched farmhouse that seemed to have emerged by the force of nature out of the red soil of central Devon’s hills. Moat was heard asking: “The poets, where are you going to put the poets?” Antoinette replied: “The pigsties is the best place for them. It should be quiet.” “What about the visiting writers?” “There’s only one place for them – the goose house.”

John Moat and his wife Antoinette at Totleigh Barton

Roger John Moat was born in India on September 11 1936. His father, a soldier, was killed in Malaya in 1942 when Moat was five — by coincidence, the age at which Antoinette also lost her father to the war. John’s education, which he would later describe as “undistinguished”, was at Radley and Exeter College, Oxford. During the gap year between the two, he underwent his formative learning experience. Uncertain whether to be a painter or a writer, he went to study with the artist Edmond Kapp in France. He came to Kapp as a prospective painter, and emerged, with Kapp’s endorsement, as a writer.

Moat produced both poetry and novels, and in all his writing there is a powerful sense of place, that place being almost exclusively the valley where he and Antoinette lived for the half-century of their lives together at Welcombe, a remote corner of north Devon, near the Cornish border on the wild Atlantic “wreckers” coast.

Their house, Crenham Mill, sits between converging streams, sheltered in oak woods, enfolded by hills and within muffled earshot of the breakers on the rocky shore. The Moats kept bees, and when the bee-smoking apparatus set fire to the house, destroying half of it, John and Antoinette contemplated the ashes of their house with characteristic equanimity. Moat cited the example of an American Indian tribe who destroy the contents of their homes each year, and the homes themselves every seven years.

Moat’s six novels have an underlying mythological spirit but concern believable people and places. Ted Hughes remarked: “One’s eye never lifts from what seems to be an actuality: very present and very urgent. Surely that’s what good writing is.”

The title of Moat’s first novel, Heorot (1968), refers to a rickety old house, reminiscent of Crenham Mill. Bartonwood (1978), a children’s book, is set on a wild and stormy wreckers’ coast, redolent of the Welcombe valley. The final novel, Blanche, published shortly before his death, features the scarcely disguised Devon estate of Endsleigh; Blanche herself is a will-o’-the-wisp figure who might have escaped from a version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In all his writing, Moat’s vivid description of landscape is in the foreground and an essential part of the action.

His 11 published books of poetry reveal a romantic sensibility, as in “Welcombe Overtures” (1987): “At sundown, after the last man has gone / From the shore, the sea moves in without a thought / And smooths the beach. / And now the builder has gone / And the patient sea is on the move again. / It smooths the pebbles into place, and the thought / Falls into place. And I, the last thought standing alone, / Am drawn to the peace that will follow when I too have gone.”

John Moat’s painting ‘Red Amaryllis’

Moat’s work was enlightened by his practice of daily meditation, his wide reading of both Eastern and Western sacred writing and Jungian philosophy. His interest in mysticism and the occult is seen in the collection Firewater and the Miraculous Mandarin, in which the poet is characterised as an alchemist. He also wrote a humorous column, “Didymus”, in Resurgence magazine.

Moat regarded painting as more of a hobby; he was relaxed in technique and liberal with materials. Among his best-loved works are paintings of flowers in his house and garden, such as amaryllis, lilies and primulas. His store of antique handmade papers, bequeathed by Edmond Kapp, lasted his lifetime. On a piece of 350-year-old Tibetan paper, which could be crumpled up and would return to shape, he slapped on layers of watercolour, wax and assorted varnishes with margins of gold leaf burnished onto gobs of dried Araldite.

He lived simply at Crenham Mill, writing in a hut in the woods. He and Antoinette, who had a wide circle of friends, channelled their resources into causes in which they believed, sometimes leaving themselves short in the process. As well as Arvon, they created the Yarner Trust – to promote self-sufficiency in farming – and Tandem, to encourage creativity in teachers. Recordings of Moat’s well-modulated voice can be heard on the poetry archive website.

John Moat is survived by Antoinette and by their son and daughter.

John Moat, born September 11 1936, died September 16 2014


David Cameron at the 2014 climate summit at the United Nations headquarters in New York. Photograph: Xinhua News Agency/REX

The New Climate Economy report from Nicholas Stern et al at the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate (Cutting emissions can boost growth, say economists, 16 September) says “Good economic actions can take us most of the way to a 2C path”.

This is from the economist who had the grace to admit he got it so wrong before. However, the emissions context in which this new claim is made is a little heroic. It is based on climate modelling in the IPCC fifth assessment report, which, as Nicholas Stern himself observed from the IMF last May, omitted significant feedback effects.

We seem now to be entering an era of carefully scripted half-truths, where the glass half full is a quite different glass from the one that is half empty.

The half-truths that nudge this “New Climate Economy” still do not observe the limits that make it a wholly owned subsidiary of the global environment.

Sadly, one is inclined to take these half-truths with the salt in the seawater that’s coming our way.
Aubrey Meyer (@aubreygci)
Global Commons Institute

• Angela Gurría and Nicholas Stern remind us that “The prize [of building a strong global economy that can avoid dangerous global warming] is huge but time is running out” (Commentary, 16 September) but make no mention of the potential for pan-European energy cooperation and renewable energy sharing. This would certainly seem to make sense: we have plenty of wind, wave and tide in the north and there is plenty of sun in the south. The proposed European super-grid, including inputs from north African concentrated solar power (CSP) and Icelandic geothermal energy, should surely be pursued with the utmost sense of urgency.

I only hope the fact that the UK is so lamentably far behind most other European countries in the development of renewable energy (Sweden produces 49% of its energy requirements from renewables; the UK, which is third to bottom in the table, produces barely 10% and seems unlikely to achieve its target of 20% by 2020) will not prove to be an impediment.
Dr Peter Wemyss-Gorman
Lindfield, West Sussex

• We call on the prime minister, deputy prime minister and opposition leaders to seize on the opportunity for British onshore wind. British voters are clear about what they want: cheap and secure energy. As parties come together at annual conferences they must put country before party, ensure energy is central to every manifesto and seize the opportunity to get policy back on track.

We call on all politicians to listen, to step forward and to act on what voters are telling them. We must harness the full potential of our abundant, clean and home-grown resources and reduce our exposure to global risks, price peaks and supply shocks.

Supported by 70% of voters (according to official government figures), more than nuclear or fracking, British onshore wind greatly reduces our exposure to global price fluctuations and foreign crises – unlike fossil fuels – and the potential for faults that have led to the current shutdown of a quarter of Britain’s nuclear capacity.

The costs to consumers of British onshore wind are falling. Already – and set to remain – the cheapest large-scale renewable, it is also cheaper than new nuclear and new coal plants. And yet the industry does not have the certainty it needs. EY last week concluded that the attractiveness of the UK market for investment in renewable energy has reached a five-year low.

Politicians of all parties must listen to the people and pledge loud and clear that British onshore wind has a role to play beyond 2020 in securing Britain’s energy supply. Its contribution to our economic competitiveness must not be artificially constrained by discriminatory policy.
Richard Mardon CEO, Airvolution, Richard Dunkley Group finance director, The Banks Group, Gareth Swales Director, Fred. Olsen Renewables, Juliet Davenport CEO, Good Energy, Eric Machiels CEO, Infinis, Esbjorn Wilmar CEO, Infinergy, Andrew Whalley CEO, REG, Gordon MacDougall Managing director, RES Western Europe (all signatories’ companies are members of British Wind)

• The UN’s plans for full-scale carbon emission negotiations in 2015 (Report, 23 September) are doomed to failure, for the following simple reason. We need to regulate carbon dioxide production, and it would be sensible, and a lot easier, to regulate the amount of coal and petroleum dug out of the ground. Therefore regulating production is a glaringly obvious way to control carbon dioxide emissions.

Obviously the regulation would need to be international, so the UN is a good starting point, but it is missing a trick by not putting the coal and oil company representatives in the hot seat – in fact, not even inviting them.

Of course reduction in availabilty of oil and coal would cause market chaos; on the other hand the UN’s and Obama’s financial schemes and let-outs will also cause market chaos, but without any guaranteed reduction in carbon dioxide. In fact, if nobody approaches the coal and oil companies it is obvious that, with or without the UN, we will have a guaranteed increase in carbon dioxide.
Dr Chris Harrison
Teddington, Middlesex

• “Fuel poverty” is a serious issue for millions in the UK (A winter’s grail, The big energy debate, 11 September). Yet that phrase obscures the breadth of the problem and implicitly pits it against renewable energy. It is primarily an issue of energy efficiency, insulation and austerity, but “fuel poverty” just implies that gas prices are too high – the phrase makes it nearly impossible to talk about sustainable energy in its context, because wind, waves and solar aren’t fuel, even though they can already deliver three times the amount of energy per unit cost of investment. Let’s help those in need by changing the phrase. “Warmth poverty” will do – keeping the focus on the need rather than the implied solution.
Julian Skidmore

“Texas proposes rewriting school text books to deny manmade climate change” runs the indignant headline on your online report. Just as shocking would have been “Texas rewrites text books to confirm climate change”. The job of education should be to induct young people into controversial issues and encourage them to make their own judgment on the basis of evidence. Why do we suddenly bend the knee to science the way the Guardian suggests? Whether you are a global warmer or sceptic, you should look at the evidence for and against, much of which is perfectly readable. It is far from true that 97% of scientists agree on manmade (anthropogenic) warming (whatever “scientist” means) and there are plenty of authoritative climate “sceptic” texts – not least of which is PJ Michael’s Shattered Consensus, which includes authors of IPCC report chapters themselves questioning the narrative. Respectable climate scientists (David Demeritt, Mike Hume, Anthony Watts and others) add useful counterfactual material – not to mention the shibboleths of the climate warmers, Mountford, Lomborg, McIntyre & McKitrick and Laframboise, all of whom are disciplined, evidence-based and respected writers. I have formed my own view, and it is not based on taking the word of scientists of whatever persuasion. I have spent a great deal of time reading the evidence. My conclusion? There is a justified, democratic debate to be had based on mutual respect and tolerance for dissent and supporting people to make up their own minds. Hang on – isn’t that the Guardian’s mission?
Professor Saville Kushner (@SavilleNZ)
University of Auckland, New Zealand

Photo of BAY CITY ROLLERS The Bay City Rollers: 1970s fashion trailblazers. Photograph: David Redfern/Redferns

In the 17th century, the church courts dealt with a range of personal behaviour, including fornication and adultery, and I think it was for that reason, rather than instances of fornication actually in church (Obituary, Chris Brooks, 23 September), that they were known as “bawdy courts”. Christopher Hill’s Society and Puritanism in Pre-Revolutionary England has a chapter on the subject.
Jeff Lewis

So, in reply to reader Rob’s complaint about a paucity of men’s fashion coverage, Hadley Freeman says men are essentially tediously conservative and tells Rob to be a trailblazer and wear fun menswear (G2, 23 September). Turn two pages and there’s a picture of … the Bay City Rollers.
Colin Barr
Ulverston, Cumbria

Your article (Report recommends ‘mass academisation’, 23 September) would have more sense if we were told that the report’s authors, Policy Exchange, are David Cameron’s favourite thinktank, and contains a plethora of right wing commentators amongst its board of trustees. It’s not that I object to Policy Exchange having a view on any topic they wish, but wealthy rightwing thinktanks have an agenda, which should also be reported.
John Buckley

“If only women MPs should be allowed to vote on subjects affecting women’s rights, and so on” (Letters, 22 September), surely the same applies to MPs whose children attend state schools and who use the NHS. This leads to the democratic logic that most Tory MPs should be excluded from voting on such matters.
Nick Jeffrey

Guardian house style is to call Islamic State “Isis” (G2, 22 September), when MPs, the BBC and even the Evening Standard refer to it as IS. Get with it. Apart from appearing lazy and ignorant, you are trampling on the sensitivities of those who know something of the great Egyptian mother goddess, Isis, whose attributes are diametrically opposed to those of Islamic State.
Jean Williams

Margaret Thatcher Object of fantasy: Margaret Thatcher Photograph: David Montgomery/Getty Images

I wonder how many others have memories similar to Hilary Mantel’s (Mantel recalls day she saw Maggie, 20 September)? My own sighting occurred as I approached the traffic lights at the foot of Edinburgh’s Mound in summer 1989. Coming up the hill was a cavalcade of shiny black motors and, from the back seat of one, Margaret Thatcher stared straight ahead, face set in that familiar, domineering expression. It was a warm day, my car window was open and, like Mantel’s, my hand instinctively formed that playground “bang bang you’re dead” gun shape. I’m not proud of such a violent response, but her policies destroyed all hope in so many of the young people with whom I was working at the time. And of course the hated poll tax had just been imposed on us in Scotland. Any other fantasy assassins out there?
Jenny Secker
Chelmsford, Essex

Tesco trolleys What happened at Tesco shows a systemic problem with big international businesses. Photograph: Will Oliver/EPA

Your report (Shares slide as Tesco admits hole in profits, 23 September) quotes Tesco’s chairman saying: “Things are always unnoticed until they are noticed.” As Americans put it: “I think he said a mouthful.” Let’s look back at a few episodes in the recent history of global capitalism which went unnoticed until they were noticed: the collapse of BCCI, Barings bank, Enron, the fraudulent rigging of Libor and of payment protection plans, and the virtual collapse of the banking system caused by banks woefully failing to fulfil their first duty, to build adequate capital reserves and manage risk. This caused the worst crisis for capitalist democracies since the 1920s and we will be suffering from its effects for another decade. Meanwhile the poorest and weakest are paying the highest price.

There is a systemic problem. The men (and they are usually men) who run great international enterprises like Barclays, RBS and Tesco receive huge salaries and even bigger bonuses which are dependent on maximising short-term profit. No one seems to be paid much to check the accuracy of accounting and, if they are, they are not very good at it. It took a whistleblower to bring Tesco’s financial mismanagement to light. Governments only found out that banks were at the point of collapse in 2008 when bank executives confessed that unless governments gave them billions of pounds immediately, their cash machines would stop working. Since then, despite all that has been said and done, what has happened at Tesco shows that this systemic problem remains. Until it is addressed, future financial crises will make the events of 2007-08 seem like a blip.
Patrick Renshaw

• The Tesco farce again highlights what a waste of space the entire auditing world is. On this occasion, one of the “big six”, PwC, seems to have failed miserably but, as usual in this alternative universe, another – Deloitte – is called in to make “an independent judgment”. Auditors are emperors with no clothes. Yet the public and private sector continues to pay these bean counters an absolute fortune for nothing.
John McCartney
Goole, East Yorkshire

• Will Tesco’s Chris Bush and co be sanctioned and lose their benefits – sorry, enormous salary and bonuses – while they are being investigated? Or does it only work like that for benefit claimants?
Di Oliver
Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire

A US warplane Super Hornet lands on the aircraft carrier USS George HW Bush after taking part in strike missions against Islamic State targets in Syria A US warplane lands on the aircraft carrier USS George HW Bush after taking part in strike missions against Islamic State group targets in Syria. Photograph: MC3 Brian Stephens/US Navy/AP

Along with most British people, we opposed an attack on Iraq in 2003. The brutal reality of the invasion and occupation confirmed our worst fears. At least half a million died and the country was devastated. Now, less than three years after US troops were pulled out, the US is bombing again. The British government is considering joining military action, not just in Iraq but in Syria too. All the experience of the varied military action taken by the west in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya shows that such interventions kill innocents, destroy infrastructure and fragment societies, and in the process spread bitterness and violence. While we all reject the politics and methods of Isis, we have to recognise that it is in part a product of the last disastrous intervention, which helped foster sectarianism and regional division. It has also been funded and aided by some of the west’s allies, especially Saudi Arabia. More bombing, let alone boots on the ground, will only exacerbate the situation. We urge the government to rule out any further military action in Iraq or Syria.
Caryl Churchill playwright
Brian Eno musician
Tariq Ali writer and broadcaster
Jeremy Corbyn MP
Lindsey German convenor of the Stop the War Coalition
Diane Abbott MP
Mark Rylance actor
Ken Loach film director
Michael Rosen author and broadcaster
Kate Hudson general secretary of CND
John McDonnell MP
Sami Ramadani Iraqi writer and campaigner
Len McCluskey general secretary of Unite
Amir Amarani film director
Mohammed Kozbar vice-president of the Muslim Association of Britain
Dr Anas Altikriti
Walter Wolfgang Labour CND
Andrew Murray chief of staff Unite

Packed rail platform in London Packed rail platform in London Photograph: Lefteris Pitarakis/AP

The real problem is not a lack of transport infrastructure in London, but an absurd concentration of jobs in our capital city (Looming London transport crisis ‘risks sparking riots’, 22 September). This has led to shockingly high house prices and to priced-out workers then having to travel long distances to work. If we provide more and cheaper transport links, we allow yet more jobs to be based there and we subsidise employers who wish to be based in an expensive city but still pay low wages. Surely the best solution is for public sector jobs to move out of London and into areas of high unemployment, where there is much less pressure on transport and other services. In particular, parliament could move to somewhere cheaper and more central. Many private sector jobs would follow.
Richard Mountford
Tonbridge, Kent

• Just days into the English devolution debate sparked by the Scottish referendum result, Peter Hendy’s crass warning of riots by the capital’s low-paid workers unless more major infrastructure projects like Crossrail 2 are built is a timely reminder of just how hard it is going to be to shift the interests that continue to concentrate almost all national major infrastructure investment in the capital, without any democratic debate involving the rest of the country. Meanwhile, in the regions served by Northern Rail, the Department for Transport imposes record fare increases on rail commuters packed into obsolete trains, which may, if we are lucky, be replaced by refurbished District line rolling stock, (Report, 7 September).
Michael White

• Transport for London proposes to spend billions to ensure that lower-paid workers must live further away from their place of work, thus adding to their already long working day and increasing their travelling costs. Surely the answer is more housing for low-paid workers, not making London inhabitable by only the rich. This is not just a London problem. The imbalance between London and the rest of the country is unsustainable. That must be a part of the debate the entire country should be having following the Scottish referendum.
David Pugh
Newtown, Powys

Proud of the NHS badge  ‘Labour must undo the damage done to the NHS by the Health and Social Care Act.’ Photograph: David Sillitoe for the Guardian

If Ed Miliband wants to put the NHS at the heart of his election campaign (Report, 23 September), he and the Labour party need to take a much stronger stance.

Labour must reverse NHS cuts and privatisation, and re-establish a comprehensive public health service providing for all on the basis of need – not a logo above a marketplace of profit-making companies.

We welcome Labour’s pledge to repeal the Health and Social Care Act and associated “competition regulations”, and to restore the ministerial duty to provide national health services. We welcome Andy Burnham’s commitment to protect the NHS from international “free trade” agreements.

But we need to go further, to undo the damage done by the act, and by years of policies shifting the NHS towards a market system, like the “internal market”, widespread privatisation and outsourcing, and fragmentation into competing units. We want a fight to bring contracts already in private hands back into the NHS. We want an end to the private finance initiative and liberation from crushing PFI debts. We want an end to cash-driven closures, a reversal of cuts, and adequate funding to rebuild the NHS as a genuine public service.

We support a living wage for health workers and a mandatory minimum staffing ratio of one nurse to every four patients. We want integration of health and social care to mean that social care becomes a public service. We want a reversal of attacks on migrants’ access to the NHS.
Joanna Adams People’s March for the NHS, Wendy Savage President, Keep Our NHS Public, John Lipetz Co-Chair, KONP, Dr Louise Irvine Chair, Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign, Colin Standfield Ealing Hospital SOS, Sacha Ismail NHS Liaison Network, Kate Osamor NHS worker and Labour party national executive committee-elect, Christine Shawcroft Labour party national executive committee, Owen Jones and 135 others Full list at

monopoly board illo Illustration by Gary Kempston

The merry-go-round of debt

In his article “Europe’s economic nightmare approaches” (12 September), Paul Mason bases his analysis on the theory that over-indebtedness leads to deflation. However, the very term “over-indebtedness” makes no sense in 2014 where, as finally made explicit by the Bank of England in the article “Money creation in the modern economy” (in their 2014 Q1 Quarterly Bulletin), the vast majority of all money is created as debt by commercial banks making loans. In short, if the economy grows, that means more debt has been created. Reduce the amount of debt, and by definition there’s less money in the economy. Pay off all debt, and the economy will be left with no money in it. In this scenario, how much debt is too much debt?

So, a growing economy means more money, which is created by increasing the amount of debt. And, as Mason says, more indebtedness means people spend more money repaying the debt – and stop spending. No wonder ordinary people in the modern world feel like they are sprinting just to stand still.

We have to move away from this crazy system where money is, by government fiat, created as debt by commercial banks. (And where the bankers collect the interest on that debt into their own pockets.) Our money must be created democratically by the people who use it, not by private bankers for their own profit. Where Mason is right, though, is that making this change will give us something that doesn’t look like capitalism as we know it. Would that be such a bad thing?
Steve Cassidy
Tábua, Portugal

Politics and funding

Re: Warwick Smith’s comment piece (19 September), when will the voting public of Australia realise the debilitating effect that political donations have on Australian democracy, such as it is. It is not difficult to speculate on what is expected when the “donors” come knocking on the doors of government looking for some return on investment. Are political donations therefore tantamount to an inducement of malfeasance?

Why is it necessary for political parties to source external funds for campaigns when they already receive funding from government coffers for election purposes? A rejection of funding from predominantly business sources would reduce the quantity of inane and incessant advertising during the election phase and provide a level playing field for all legitimate election candidates.
Clive Parrett
Melbourne, Australia

Israel, war and antisemitism

The Israeli government could have levied a 10% surtax on all incomes above the median to pay for the recent Gaza war (Israel faces sharp budget cuts to meet cost of conflict, 5 September). Its refusal to raise taxes, to cut education funding instead, is symbolic of the neoliberal economy above allstyle politics pursued by too many democracies around the world. Future generations will pay the price; my sincere apologies to them.
André Carrel
Terrace, British Columbia, Canada

• Definitely, antisemitism is a pest that must be totally and utterly separated from the criticism of the Israeli state (Owen Jones, 15 August). However, for some it seems convenient to maintain the confusion: I was recently labelled “antisemitic” by Jews for my criticism of the behaviour of Israel. I contacted my Jewish friends for clarification. They bluntly told me that the behaviour of the Israel state was the perfect negation of Jewish ethics.
Jean-Marie Gillis
Wezembeek-Oppem, Belgium

Controlling the brumbies

I can understand that there may be a need to limit the ecological damage done by brumbies (Australia’s wild horses face end of their trek, 12 September) and, by the way, thank you for the explanation as to how the name came about. Yes, they cause ecological damage and that has to stop. However, it seems to me that slaughter may not be the only answer.

Has anyone noticed that some of the brumbies, running wild, have obvious male features? However, has anyone ever thought of that as the key to a less terrifying solution than slaughter, which might solve the problem entirely in a, shall we say, kinder manner.

I am sure you know where I am going with this and I apologise to the gods of libido. However, would sedation and castration of a sensibly calculated percentage of male brumbies not achieve the desired end, eventually, without slaughter? It is just a thought. I expect most female readers would agree. I do not want to hear from the male readers.
Ian Cameron
Devonport, Auckland, New Zealand

Back on the shelf

I enjoyed Rachel Cooke’s article on reading (5 September). As someone who has read voraciously ever since I could, I love not only the solitariness of reading but also talking about books with friends.

We moved to Geneva almost three decades ago. Initially, I didn’t know any readers, so the books I read were exclusively ones I or my husband picked up. I am now a part of a community of readers, which has enriched my reading experience. They have lent me books that I would not have read on my own (a reason to buy physical books, as far as I’m concerned!), and vice versa. It’s all part of what Phyllis Rose did by reading her way through a library shelf – widen her reading horizons.
Suroor Alikhan
Geneva, Switzerland

Queen and country

I write regarding Emer O’Toole’s article (22 August) about choosing not to swear an oath to the Queen to obtain Canadian citizenship. I think perhaps she is just having a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day” and should consider moving to Australia, where her views might find more support. Or alternatively she could move south of the border to America where no allegiance to a monarch is necessary. Since she mentions her political leanings I hasten to add that socialism is really in a bad way down there and could use her support.

As a Canadian citizen, I am a strong supporter of the British crown. I was born on a Saskatchewan farm on 17 September, 1940, sometimes considered to be Battle of Britain Day, when Hitler decided he was not going to invade England after all. My early childhood was strongly influenced by my mother’s belief that George VI and the British crown provided Britain and its dominions with a rallying point against Nazism. And so I have grown up with a profound respect for it.
David Malcolm
Inuvik, Northwest Territories, Canada


• I would have to read a transcript, but I do not think that Judge Masipa said she believes Oscar Pistorius did not murder anyone (19 September), only that the prosecution had not produced evidence “beyond all reasonable doubt” in law that he did.

Another judge and assessors might take a different view as to the level of proof, which at least means that a defence appeal against the culpable homicide verdict is highly unlikely, however severe the sentence.
Adrian Betham
London, UK

• With regard to Paul Mason’s criteria for the perfect city (5 September), I wonder whether he was thinking about Wellington, New Zealand. It is a small city with a population of approximately 135,000 and a centre so compact it can be walked across in 30 minutes unless you want to stop and try on some vintage clothing or enjoy a craft beer or perhaps take in a play and afterwards enjoy a real coffee in one of our numerous owner-operated coffee bars.

Apart from some minor issues – Wellington’s trams were scrapped in the 1960s,the bicycle network is a work in progress and the sea can be chilly – I am sure Wellington has everything on Paul’s wishlist.
Bob Dunkerley
Wellington, New Zealand

• Dogs as an adjunct to human activity (Patrick Barkham, 12 September) should be anchored in our psyche. Dogs hunt, dogs work, and only since breeds have become an extension to human behaviour has a dog’s life become, well, a dog’s life. Never, like me, give a sofa to a friend who lives in a flat with an Alsatian. The dog will just destroy what could have been that friend’s wonderful relationship.
E Slack
L’Isle Jourdain, France

• The United Kingdom should be an annually renewable lease (Will Scotland break the union? 12 September). Let the referendum be an yearly affair. Bleed Westminster dry.
Jeffry Larson
Hamden, Connecticut, US


If Scottish MPs at Westminster are to be barred from voting on issues that mainly affect England, presumably English MPs will also be barred from voting on issues that mainly affect Scotland. This would stop them from being able, by virtue of their far greater numbers, to force on the Scots all sorts of things that Scottish MPs would never have voted for.

The first such vote should obviously be whether the nuclear submarines that English MPs dumped on Scotland, against the wishes of the vast majority of Scots, should stay where they are, just a short distance from Scotland’s largest city. Once Scottish MPs have voted to get rid of them, all those English MPs who thought nuclear submarines were a great idea as long as they were far away in Scotland will face the prospect of having these dangerous craft in their constituencies.

Sheila Miller


The Scottish referendum has produced a result in which the losers will prove to be the winners, which makes Alex Salmond’s resignation stranger than it seemed at first. If the promises made  by David Cameron were kept, as they almost certainly will be, then Scotland will be, in all but name, an independent country.

If we are one nation, as so many have insisted, then I can see no reason why all MPs should not vote on all matters concerning that one nation. But it looks as if we are going to have all kinds of devolution, which should mean there is little or no need for a House of Commons or a House of Lords, so perhaps the referendum result is a good one after all.

Bill Fletcher

Cirencester, Gloucestershire


The answer to the West Lothian question is simple.

Westminster MPs from a 50-mile radius adjoining the Scottish border should sit and vote in the Holyrood Parliament. Thus, Scottish MSPs would have to consider their neighbours on whom their decisions might have an effect; northern English MPs would have a legitimate claim to have a say in Scotland. This would balance the claim that Scottish MPs must vote on England-only matters as it might affect them. Honour is thus restored on all sides. A similar system could be adopted for Wales, leaving time for a lively debate about how we might decide Northern Ireland’s affairs.

Peter Cunningham


I am extremely dismayed and almost disgusted at the Labour and Scottish leaderships’ stance on the West Lothian question. The WLQ has been around since the late 1970s as has the flawed Barnett formula – where Scotland gets 19 per cent per capita more than England. No wonder the Scottish Parliament can dish out all sorts of freebies and socialist programmes to keep the inner-cities voting for the free money.

Both need sorting out if Scotland gets more powers.  It is not democratic to leave it as it is, as pointed out by Chris Grayling at the weekend. In the event of a Yes win, the independence negotiations were planned to take 18 months.

The same timescale can be used for further devolution talks and addressing the WLQ. I might also add that I am fed up subsidising Scottish business and retail outlets with higher costs for us in England. Costs should fall where they lie.

Colin Macleod Stone



The sad part is that normal isn’t better

I was impressed with Oliver Wright’s paean to dyslexics and (implicitly) to others with non-normal abilities.

I employed many programmers over the years when I ran a software development company and a high percentage were dyslexic. Most of these were quite brilliant in seeing through the morass of logic required for any big project but often found it hard to explain to the “ordinary” programmers how or why they wrote what they did. Suffice to say, their work  was some of the most inventive and successful code we produced.

This is purely anecdotal and may not indicate that dyslexics make good programmers but it does reflect a well proven phenomenon where people excel in some areas despite or maybe because of struggling to achieve the “norm” in others. Given that the “norm” is the same as the average and the standard, who would want  to be normal?

The sad part is that some sections of society, education and commerce would rather we were all normal but that is mostly laziness on their part. Different can be good. Very different can be very good.

William Charlton


Why not in my back yard?

I am truly conflicted (Mary Dejevsky, 23 September). A couple of weeks ago an email was circulated around our leafy neighbourhood in East Molesey exhorting us to write in to complain about increased potential noise and harm caused by a new trial air route round Heathrow.

One resident even said she had moved to Molesey all the way from Richmond to avoid the noise. Who among us can say we have not shared in the benefits of air travel, especially those of us who can pop down to the almost equidistant airports of Gatwick or Heathrow and set off for a light lunch or weekend in Milan or Paris?

I am trying not to be a Nimby and so, despite the possible damage to my personal sleep patterns if the flight path were to change, how can I argue that it is better for the residents of Richmond to suffer more than those of East Molesey? Or for the birds of Boris Island to be moved on?

Anthony Lipmann

East Molesey, Surrey

The argument for Heathrow expansion

Mary Dejevsky concludes that the benefits of Heathrow expansion are ‘‘overstated’’ (23 September). That is not the view of thousands of residents, businesses and workers who depend on the UK’s only hub airport. Heathrow’s importance is recognised by the 40,000 people who have joined our campaign to ensure the airport grows and succeeds. Nationally, millions of passengers rely on the  long-haul connections that only a bigger and better Heathrow can deliver.

Rob Gray

Back Heathrow Campaign, Hounslow


I’ll bet Janet a tenner I can prove her wrong

Janet Street-Porter is completely wrong (20 September). Choice of beer is not simply down to packaging. I am happy to sit down with her and, for a £10 bet, in a blind tasting identify a real ale such as Fuller’s London Pride or Timothy Taylor’s Landlord from Heineken or Stella Artois lagers. It would be the easiest tenner I’d ever earned. Janet needs to learn a hell of a lot more about beer before making such wild statements. I’m wondering whether anything else she writes about can be trusted.

Michael O’Hare

Northwood, Middlesex


This is not Tesco’s finest hour

I like Tesco, my small neighbourhood store carrying things I want at a good price, run by nice staff as a part of a giant but relatively uncomplicated enterprise – so what went wrong?

Tesco has said that the overstatement of its half-year profits by £250m was ‘‘principally due to the accelerated recognition of commercial income and delayed accrual of costs’’.

It’s a long time since I did Business Accountancy 101 but I know exactly what that means. My query is how did PwC, the firm’s auditor for three decades, manage to miss it? Its shares are down 40 per cent this year and in case you think it’s not your problem, if you have a company pension fund, an insurance policy, or a shares ISA, it’s your problem.

Dr John Cameron

St Andrews


Independent’s front page make me proud

Thank you Indy for your front page featuring Emma Thompson, highlighting the threat to humanity that others choose to ignore.

I took part in the London march with thousands of other people, to unite in voicing our fears for the future of our grandchildren and the planet that they will inherit. It makes me proud to be an Indy reader.

Margaret Hayday

Benfleet, Essex


Tiresome pun amid a mixed message

The Independent is loud in its silence over celebrity Royal events and quick to publish letters congratulating itself on the same. Yet you report an important climate change march with the front page headline (22 September) “The nanny states her case: Emma Thompson joins climate launch” and a dominating picture of the smiling celebrity. Quite apart from the tiresome pun, how is Ms Thompson’s attendance the news story here? Could you perhaps share your policy on celebrity newsworthiness with us readers?

Julian Stanford



Silly season is over

Lord Bell’s suggestion that Hilary Mantel be investigated by the police  for incitement to murder is ridiculous!  You cannot incite someone to murder a person who is dead. And where will this end? Should Lord Dobbs be investigated for his novel set in the House of Lords in which the Queen is the target.  Police have enough serious work to do and Lord Bell should be aware that the August silly season is over.

Sue Miller

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

House of Lords


Sir, With regard to “Medical schools ‘moving admissions goalposts’ ” (Sept 22), the School of Medicine at the University of Leeds has not changed and would not change any qualification requirements mid-cycle.We operate a transparent admissions process that is reflective of the changes taking place in secondary education.
Dr Gail Nicholls
Director of admissions, School of Medicine, University of Leeds

Sir, No one can disagree with the conclusion of the latest Cancer Research UK report that earlier diagnosis of common cancers could improve survival chances (“Half of cancers spotted too late to save lives”, Sept 22). In many cases, the key to rapid diagnosis is the availability of medical imaging — X-rays and scans — and the expert interpretation of these images.

We are aware of growing delays in reporting images due to a shortage of those trained to interpret them. With about half as many radiologists as other comparable Western nations, there is an urgent need for the UK to train a larger workforce and to remove the barriers that prevent clinical radiology services working more efficiently on a networked basis. We are seeking the support of all the main parties in achieving this.
Giles Maskell
President, the Royal College of Radiologists

Sir, Your report (“Bridge to the past as children honour the heroes of Arnhem”, Sept 22) of the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Arnhem says that on the night of September 25 we withdrew “to the safety of territory held by the Poles”. Not so. As one who swam the River Neder Rijn
I can assure you that when we crossed to the south bank it was bravely held by the 43rd Division, the leading infantry division of the 30 Corps relieving force.
Lewis Golden
Petworth, W Sussex

Sir, You report that 25,000 paedophiles have been identified but most will not be caught (Sept 23). So the offence is more prevalent than we thought. Surely this is a reason to increase the maximum sentence for those who are caught. Prevalence is relevant to sentence, and prevalence is measured by how much something happens, not by how much of it leads to arrest or conviction.
JJ Rowe, QC
Bowdon, Cheshire

Sir, I was impressed that 68-year-old Tim Claye and his wife had recently picked 4.5 tonnes of olives (letter, Sept 22). One wonders, however, what Warwickshire Wildlife Trust is doing with all those olive trees. They are not native and hence are not supporting British wildlife.
Dr Michael Cullen
Dunvegan, Isle of Skye


Those who worked with Edward Lord were shocked to hear of his dismissal by the Football Association last week

Dismissed: Edward Lord, the inclusion adviser dismissed by the Football Association

Dismissed: Edward Lord, the inclusion adviser dismissed by the Football Association

6:57AM BST 23 Sep 2014


SIR – Having known and worked with Edward Lord, the inclusion adviser dismissed by the Football Association last week, we are surprised by the FA’s statement announcing his departure. Without taking sides in the dispute, we believe the statement describes a character that we simply don’t recognise.

In our experience Mr Lord is a capable, professional, and collegial board member, and an inspiring advocate for equality and social inclusion, whose public service has been recognised at the highest level.

As group chairman of the Amateur Swimming Association – representing England’s largest participation sport – and through his continuing involvement in football, we are certain he will still lead the way in UK sport by speaking out for those who cannot speak up for themselves.

George Dorling
Chairman, London Football Association

Sir Stephen Bubb
Chairman, Social Investment Business

Lord Dholakia

The Rev Canon Mark Oakley
Chancellor, St Paul’s Cathedral

Rabbi Dr Deborah Kahn Harris
Principal, Leo Baeck College

Rachel Beadle
Former Chair, The Pride Trust

Cllr Ruth Cadbury (Lab)
Former Deputy Chair, Improvement & Innovation Board, Local Government Association

George Dorling
Chairman, London Football Association

Lynne Featherstone MP (Lib Dem)

Jim Fitzpatrick MP (Lab)

Cllr Peter Fleming (Con)
Leader, Sevenoaks District Council
Chairman, Improvement & Innovation Board, Local Government Association

Ed Fordham
Chair, LGBT+ Lib Dems

Alderman Tim Hailes JP
Elected Member, City of London Corporation

Claire Harvey
Ambassador, LGBT Sports Charter

Colm Howard-Lloyd
Chair, LGBTory

Cllr Peter John (Lab)
Leader, London Borough of Southwark

Simon Johnson
Non-Executive Director, Amateur Swimming Association

Dan Large
Former Campaign Director, Freedom to Marry

Mark MacGregor
Former Chief Executive, The Conservative Party

Sir Nick Partridge
Former Chief Executive, The Terrence Higgins Trust

Mayor Jules Pipe (Lab)
Chair, London Councils

Cllr Jill Shortland (Lib Dem)
Former Leader, Somerset County Council
Vice Chair, Improvement & Innovation Board, Local Government Association

Terry Stacy JP
Former Leader, London Borough of Islington

Richard Stephenson
Former President of the National Conservative Convention

Jo Swinson MP (Lib Dem)

Mayor Dorothy Thornhill (Lib Dem)

Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson (Lib Dem)
Vice Chair, Local Government Association

Cllr Jess Webb (Lab)
Former Speaker of Hackney Council
Equal Opportunities Officer, RMT

Samuel West
Chair, National Campaign for the Arts

It is perilous for an island nation such as Britain to rely on foreign ships and crew

The crew of the SS Norman in 1896

Merchant Navy: the crew of the SS Norman in 1896

6:58AM BST 23 Sep 2014


SIR – I have spent my entire working life at sea in ships, from apprentice to Master Mariner. Since 1995 I have been privileged, as a Port of London pilot, to bring ships in and out of London.

During this time I have witnessed the decline of British-officered ships. Just this week, I boarded a 37,000-ton tanker with a cargo of ultra-low-sulphur diesel fuel. It was registered in London and I was curious, before I reached the bridge, as to the nationality of the master. It turned out that the captain was Russian.

British ships need no longer be captained by British officers because, in the dying days of John Major’s administration in 1997, an all-party select committee decided as much. This was after much lobbying by ship owners to reduce their crewing costs. A statutory instrument amended the provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act, without any debate in Parliament.

For an island nation to rely on foreign ships and a few British ships crewed by foreigners is a suicide note. It also insults those seamen of the British merchant navy whose cargoes saved this country from starvation twice, during two world wars.

Why was the law changed?

Christopher P R Clarke
Little Clacton, Essex

Message in a bottle

SIR – Last week the post was collected too early for me to get a birthday card to a friend for the following day.

There is no point in paying to send anything first class as it is about as reliable as throwing a message in a bottle out to sea – and now we are supposed to throw it out on the morning tide.

Felicity Foulis Brown
Bramley, Hampshire

Rasher decisions

SIR – Alan Self should certainly not give up bacon. He should buy proper bacon from a proper butcher.

This way he can buy as much or as little as he wants and his rashers, wrapped in greaseproof paper, will keep for much longer than plastic-packaged bacon.

Suzie Marwood
London SW6

SIR – Mr Self can patronise his friendly local butchers and buy as much excellent bacon as he wants, or, as I do, buy a piece of belly pork and cure his own. At least he will know he is eating 100 per cent bacon.

Ian Carter
Lytham St Annes, Lancashire

Longer school days

SIR – I chose to teach at an independent school as a second career. The school day was a minimum of nine hours for day students with an extra hour of prep for boarders. My own hours exceeded 80 a week, including Saturday morning school, sports coaching, Combined Cadet Force activities and school trips.

The Teacher Support Network’s concern about the health and wellbeing of fellow professionals, whose average school hours are 8.30am to 3pm five days a week, reveals the disparity between state and independent sectors.

Hard work and pride in shaping future generations should be basic ingredients of teaching. Personal time is well catered for with generous school holidays. My attitude is shaped by the career I had prior to teaching; I was in the British Army.

Wesley Thomas
Stonehouse, Gloucestershire

Down with Downton

SIR – Can there be anyone else in this country who thinks, as I do, that Downton Abbey is a most dreadful bore?

Dudley Paget-Brown
Esher, Surrey

One reader’s childhood memories of the Wallace Collection remind us that the past is a foreign place

On guard: the Wallace Collection was bequeathed to Britain by Lady Wallace in 1897

On guard: the Wallace Collection was bequeathed to Britain by Lady Wallace in 1897 Photo: Alamy

6:59AM BST 23 Sep 2014


SIR – It is good to know that the Wallace Collection is opening again and still going strong.

Some of my best childhood memories are of spending Saturday mornings there during the school holidays, while my father worked at his nearby office.

Aged eight or nine, I loved looking at the art works and admiring the great collection of historic armour. Wandering around alone, I hardly saw a soul, and could daydream to my heart’s content.

Who works a five-and-a-half-day week now? And who today would dare leave a child alone anywhere in London? But that was in 1949; the past is a foreign country.

John Underwood
Bramber, West Sussex

Labour’s desire for Scottish MPs to continue voting on purely English issues is transparent and undemocratic

Ed Miliband, the Labour leader.

Ed Miliband has refused to say whether he backs the PM’s plans to ban Scottish MPs from voting on English laws Photo: PA

7:00AM BST 23 Sep 2014


SIR – Labour’s position on representation has descended into rank gerrymandering. Labour has for years resisted a much-needed adjustment to constituency boundaries that would address the unfairness of Labour seats being on average 6 per cent smaller than Conservative ones.

Now Ed Miliband dredges up fatuous excuses for permitting Scottish Labour MPs to continue voting on English matters after they lose the ability to influence the same matters in their own constituencies. This is so transparently undemocratic and based on naked political self-interest, that ethical members of the shadow cabinet disagree with him.

Termination of the involvement of Scottish MPs in purely English affairs, after the introduction of devo max for Scotland early next year, is so clearly desirable and easy to implement that it need not await the substantive national debate that must precede a full constitutional settlement.

The main political parties can simply agree with the Speaker that, as soon as devo max becomes effective for Scotland, a new convention will operate in the House of Commons under which Scottish MPs will not vote on those matters involving England which have become, in Scotland, exclusively reserved for Holyrood. The rest can follow later.

Gregory Shenkman
London W8

SIR – Why does Scotland require three sets of MPs – SMPs, Westminster MPs, European MPs – on top of local government?

David Bannister
Driffield, East Yorkshire

SIR – At one stage during the Scottish referendum campaign Alex Salmond told us: “The English will dance to a Scottish tune.” Even though he lost, it seems now that he was right.

Raymond Whittle
Marlborough, Wiltshire

SIR – With his attitude to Scots MPs continuing to vote on English matters, Ed Balls is typical of the professional MP class. They simply cannot do what is right and proper. Instead, they are only interested in protecting their jobs. Integrity? Hah!

Lt Col Dale Hemming-Tayler (retd)
Edith Weston, Rutland

SIR – Now we can see a master plan that rights the British constitution, while winning the Tories the general election in 2015.

Scottish devolution started life as a ploy to shore up Labour’s Westminster vote with Scottish MPs. This was outbid by Scottish nationalism and almost cost the Union. Fortunately the tail that sought to wag the dog has not been cut off.

Meanwhile British Tories, anxious to restore national authority in order to halt EU federalism, foresaw the possibility that a nationalist victory could leave what remained of Britain being constricted by an unholy alliance of Scotland and Brussels, while Ukip digested Britain from within.

Sir William Mackay (who led a commission on the subject) is said to have prepared a list of subjects that Scots MPs should not vote on. This is the simplest (and most logical) solution to the West Lothian Question. It could in time be extended to any (eventual, expensive) devolution of further powers to Northern Ireland, Wales and the regions – while leaving Ukip stranded without a programme, and a rejuvenated Tory party to return the EU to its proper level of authority.

William Wyndham
Lewes, East Sussex

SIR – In a statement on devolution, the Prime Minister says that matters will move forward swiftly “in tandem”. It is to be hoped that he means “in parallel”, or the process may last for a very long time.

Michael Nicholson
Dunsfold, Surrey

Irish Times:

Sir, – Further to your editorial (“Lost for words”, September 23rd), there is indeed a serious lack of speech and language therapy services. I work in three part-time speech and language therapy jobs – public, private and charitable. I have been a speech and language therapist for 28 years. Waiting times are only the tip of the iceberg.

Public services are pushed to lower waiting times by the colour-coded system. If children wait less than four months, your service stays green. The question we are not expected to ask is, “What are they waiting for?” If the only measure of success is reduced waiting times, then the pressure on speech and language therapists is to assess, minimally treat and move on to the next child. There is little room for a careful, effective and compassionate approach to children and families, especially those with significant disabilities.

Meanwhile I am surrounded by qualified graduates working in non-professional jobs, planning to emigrate or return to college because employment opportunities are so scarce.

Speech and language therapy should be “what it says on the tin” – therapeutic.

In the overworked, overstressed world of the speech and language therapist, reaching out to support a family whose child has not achieved the ability to talk is a constant challenge. How much harder must it be to be the parent of a child with communication difficulty? – Yours, etc,


Rock Cottage,

Skibbereen, Co Cork.

Sir, – Further to Carl O’Brien’s article (“Child speech therapy services ‘a lottery’, says report”, September 22nd), once again the critical gap in resources to meet needs, long waiting times, discontinuities in provision at critical points in children’s development and unmanageable caseloads are highlighted. Meanwhile we continue to watch as many of our speech and language therapy graduates leave Ireland to seek employment elsewhere.

Meeting children’s speech, language, communication and swallowing needs requires a continuum of care delivered by therapists in partnership with parents, educators and others. Some children may have their needs met by a relatively short course of intervention, others will require support across childhood, adolescence and into adulthood. Meeting current and future needs not only requires additional posts, but also a resolve to organise and deliver services so that children are provided both a timely and sufficient level of service to achieve meaningful outcomes.

Taking a child from the “waiting list” and assessing needs is but a starting point; once in the system children need to be provided enough effective intervention to support communication development and thus maximise long-term participation in education, employment and society. 2014 is designated International Communication Project Year, which emphasises communication as a fundamental human right. Inclusion Ireland’s report and concurrent media articles are a stark reminder of the distance we have yet to travel to achieve this for all children here. – Yours, etc,



Department of Clinical


University of Limerick.

Sir, – I read Malachy Clerkin’s column in The Irish Times with interest (“Is there no end to Denis O’Brien’s intervention in Irish sport?”, September 18th).

Clearly Malachy Clerkin doesn’t want Denis O’Brien to support Irish soccer or Irish rugby. Would he have preferred that these sports would be denied any assistance that just might help them progress? It strikes me as a rather unusual stance for a sports journalist.

If Malachy had bothered to check the facts he would have learned that Denis O’Brien’s support for the Irish cricket team came as a result of a request for immediate assistance during the 2007 Cricket World Cup when they unexpectedly got through to the Super 8 round.

From the general tone of his column it would appear that Malachy would have been happier if the plea for help was rejected. If he has such a hang-up about financial contributions that have sought nothing in return, how does he feel about sports sponsorship?

What strikes me as particularly incongruous is how an advocate of sport could so determinedly attempt to convert what just might be a positive motivation into some covert agenda.

What lies ahead for readers of The Irish Times – Malachy Clerkin rails against corporate branding of sports? Opposing advertising on sports pages? Refuses any element of his salary which might be sourced from commercial activities?

Maybe Malachy is a sports journalist who simply does not like sports. Yours, etc,


Media adviser

to Denis O’Brien,

Fitzwilliam Quay, Dublin 4.

Sir, – One of the interesting titbits bandied about in the recent Scottish referendum was the curious fact that a fifth of “British” casualties in the first World War were Scottish. Irish casualties, from a country of similar population, were well less than half of the Scottish total. The difference is accounted for by the impossibility of bringing in conscription in Ireland, due to the fear of extreme republican opposition, especially after the Rising.

People such as John Bruton, who somehow persist in seeing themselves as virtuously anti-militarist, have a blind spot when it comes to this question. Redmond’s support for the war was the greatest act of political cowardice in modern Irish history. Sinn Féin’s successful campaign against conscription was perhaps that party’s greatest gift to the people of Ireland. All other debates about devolved powers, dominion status, oaths, etc, are minor details when set beside the question of Westminster’s power to forcibly conscript unwilling young men in wartime.

Tens of thousands of young lives were thrown away by Redmond’s short-sighted tactical decision to support enlistment. Tens of thousands of young lives were undoubtedly saved by Sinn Féin’s defeat of conscription. The numbers involved dwarf the casualties in 1916, the War of Independence, the Civil War, and the recent Troubles put together. Mr Bruton’s attempt to reimagine the gung-ho militarist Redmond as some kind of early John Hume figure is simply unhistorical. – Yours, etc,


Ferndale Road,


Dublin 11.

A chara, – Ian d’Alton (September 23rd) is himself guilty of a “dangerous illogicality”. He lays the blame for the “centre of Dublin” being “devastated” squarely on the shoulders of those who rebelled. I would remind him that he is the one who is reading “history backwards”. The rebels only had small arms and it was our British colonial overlords who devastated the city by using artillery and a warship (the Helga) to shell it. – Is mise,


Thormanby Road,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – It was heartening to hear Minister for Defence Simon Coveney say the following: “I think Irish people are very emotionally attached to 1916 as a pivotal point in Irish history and to suggest it wasn’t a significant event towards the achieving of Irish independence, I don’t think is a fair reflection and, in many ways, denigrates people and families who deserve better” (“Coveney ‘takes issue’ with Bruton’s Easter 1916 Rising comments”, September 22nd). – Yours, etc,


Shandon Crescent,


Dublin 7.

Sir, – While there is much in Mark Paul’s article “Excise cuts are best for big business, not local pubs” (September 19th) that we agree with, we feel that it is important to emphasise the reasons why an excise cut would be good for small businesses such as ours and why supporting an excise reversal is indeed supporting your local pub.

Government tax policy has imposed 28 cent on the average pint in three budgets – of which excise increases have been the key driver. As publicans, we have had no choice but to pass on these excise increases to our customers. In contrast, the large multiples can absorb these tax increases by spreading it over their product offer. This is causing a further widening of the price of alcohol in supermarkets versus in pubs.

Consider the cost of alcohol sold in supermarkets. Take for example last St Patrick’s Day, when a slab of beer – 24 cans – was available for €24. It is being sold as a loss leader. The same quantity of the same beer was €38 when sold on promotion in 2005.

Local pubs such as ours simply cannot compete with these kind of prices and this, along with the cultural shifts to which Mr Paul refers, encourages people to consume alcohol at home. Furthermore, the reality is that the cost of a meaningful VAT reduction would be prohibitive for the exchequer, whereas excise applies specifically to alcohol. The consecutive excise increases were an additional extra burden on our sector when compared to other small businesses around the country, as they targeted our sector and our sector alone. Conversely, an excise reduction would have a positive impact on the pub sector.

Finally, the reality is that excise increases have impacted on our cost of doing business. Excise impacts on margins, profitability and the sustainability of small businesses such as ours. This is why we are urging the people that enjoy socialising in our pubs and those of our members to support jobs, support their local and join us in our call on the Government to cut excise. – Yours, etc,



Vintners’ Federation

of Ireland,

Rocky’s Bar,

Nenagh, Co Tipperary;



Licensed Vintners’


Blue Café Bar, Skerries,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – Italy has added its voice to those countries trying to block our Government’s plans to ban branding on tobacco packaging (“Italy joins EU states objecting to Irish plan for plain cigarette packs”, September 19th). As Europe’s leading tobacco producing country and one of the top 10 tobacco growers worldwide, Italy’s motivation in opposing Ireland’s plans to reduce tobacco consumption is apparent. Indeed, it comes as no shock that eight out of nine countries attempting to prevent Ireland implementing the most important piece of tobacco control legislation since the 2004 workplace ban are tobacco producers. The ninth country, the Czech Republic, has one of the poorest tobacco control records in Europe.

While these states lodge objections with the European Commission, the real opposition is coming from the tobacco industry. This legislation is about health not tobacco profits, and a reduction in the 5,200 Irish deaths caused each year by the tobacco industry is what is at stake. – Yours, etc,


Asthma Society

of Ireland,

Amiens Street, Dublin 1.

Sir, – Anyone who wants to know what actually happened in the Scottish referendum should access the interactive map carried on your website. This shows the overwhelming rejection of independence by Scotland. A total of 28 of 32 electoral areas voted No, many of them by very large majorities. By contrast three areas, in a tiny heavily populated area centred in Glasgow, along with Dundee, voted Yes. So much for the “too close to call” nonsense of the polls and the predominantly wishful thinking of our media. Perhaps the nationalists’ next campaign should be for independence for Glasgow. – Yours, etc,



Castledermot, Co Kildare.

Sir, – I rejoice with Amhlaoibh Mac Giolla (September 22nd) that Ireland, having cast off the yoke of her former colonial oppressor, enjoys such a wealth of democratic freedom. I hasten to reassure him that, over on this side of the Irish Sea, we do have a certain, albeit limited, measure of democracy ourselves.

Granted, in the matter of our head of state, we pretty much have to accept what we’re given. As her role is largely ceremonial, this makes little practical difference to how we’re governed day to day. Just as in Ireland, we get to vote in a general election every few years. Between those elections, the government in power does exactly as it pleases, without any reference to those who elected it.

However, once a week, the prime minister calls on the queen, whose reign has seen many of his predecessors come and go. What passes between them is never disclosed, but it’s well known that, although her majesty has neither the authority nor the mandate to tell the prime minister what to do, she does give him advice, sometimes in quite forthright terms. Advice which he would be foolish not to listen to – whether he follows it or not.

The one thing the queen represents is continuity. She has a punishing schedule of official duties which would daunt someone half her age. She does have holidays, of course, which she usually spends in Scotland. How unseemly would it be if, heading off for her customary break, she had to stop at the border and show her passport? Grant that it may never happen. – Yours, etc,


Kelsey Close,

St Helens, Merseyside.

Sir, – I am a sports nut. I love sport. I am involved professionally in sport and in particular golf. But I can’t tolerate the Ryder Cup. I believe that there is already too much money in sport and in particular golf.

Then you have this elite event. Essentially this is an exhibition match played by 24 multimillionaires over a weekend and all the players talk about is the “pressure of the Ryder Cup”. These are people fortunate enough that they will never experience pressure the way the rest of us do in our work and lives. Yesterday you noted the “pressure the caddies are under” in the Ryder Cup (“No one gets closer to the action than the Ryder Cup caddies”, September 23rd). Oh, come on! Enough! – Yours, etc,



Dublin 3.

Sir, – Sean Moran (“Hard for neutrals to care as football gets stuck in the system”, September 23rd) writes: “For All-Ireland winners, the end justifies the means – for everyone else it’s just hard going”.

Mr Moran’s candid salience surely rings true throughout the land.

The handball/football hybrid that is now passed off as Gaelic football is a frustrating one for the genuine supporter, spectator and true footballer alike.

Tactical systems are okay in moderation, but the extreme, contorted, claustrophobic versions in so many matches these days surely leave much to be desired. – Yours, etc,


Chapel Street,


Co Waterford.

Sir, – I would like to add my voice to that of Brendan Lynch (September 22nd) regarding Oliver Goldsmith’s Lissoy parsonage in Co Westmeath. My last visit there was five years ago, when evidence of the neglect was already apparent. Sadly, without concerted pressure from local public opinion, it would seem unlikely that the council will take the initiative.

“A stitch in time saves nine”, however, and it would be in the interest of all concerned to expedite the matter. – Yours, etc,


Mapas Avenue,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – I refer to the article “All Hallows College for sale” (September 17th), in which it is stated that the college is owned by the Vincentians.

I wish to confirm that the Vincentian Fathers do not, or have not at any time, owned All Hallows College and would not therefore benefit in any way from the sale of the property. – Yours, etc,


Vincentian Fathers,

Provincial Office,

St Paul’s,

Sybil Hill,


Dublin 5.

Sir, – I was interested to read (“Irish society should draw up new ethical principles, says President”, September 23rd) that the recent conference in Dublin addressed by President Michael D Higgins was “organised by St Vincent de Paul”. Saints alive! – Yours, etc, 


Pine Valley Avenue,

Rathfarnham, Dublin 16.

Sir, – Enda Kenny’s “turn off the tap” remark (“Turn off tap when brushing teeth to save water, says Kenny”, September 18th) shows that his arrogance and pomposity are in full flow.– Yours, etc,


Harcourt Terrace,

Dublin 2.

Irish Independent:

It was the 40th anniversary of Watergate in August, which was a seismic event in 1974.

US President, Republican Richard Nixon, resigned on August 9 that year to avoid impeachment. He fired his close aides, but in the end the buck stopped with him, and Vice President Gerald Ford replaced him and granted him a pardon months later to help the country heal, as he put it.

It may never have happened only for the ‘Washington Post’s executive editor, Ben Bradlee and its journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein (immortalised in ‘All the President’s Men’) finding out what was behind the break-in into the Democratic National Committee HQ in the Watergate Complex in Washington DC in June, months before the 1972 presidential election, which saw Nixon into his second term.

‘Deep Throat’ was one of their famous sources and was said never to be wrong. He was revealed a few years ago to have been a top FBI man.

What they found led to a two-year battle with the president and his aides, as the newspaper uncovered information, bit by bit, about how some close to Nixon were involved in the break-in to discover what the Democrats were doing to in the 1972 election.

Spying on rivals’ political camps was not unusual, but phone taps and break-ins were, and the ”Washington Post’ discovered these were a threat to democracy.

Nixon and his aides, who knew of the break-in, acted like they were untouchable. The integrity of the US federal legal system was severely tested.

The newspaper, alone at first, kept to its task and in the end Nixon’s recordings of conversations in the Oval Office forced him to resign. Crucial to this was investigating judge, John J Sirica, who insisted on the tapes being handed over.

The five main players involved in the break-in were jailed, along with a former US attorney general. When Ben Bradlee became editor in 1968, the ‘Washington Post’ was in the backwater and he wanted it to be a better newspaper.

He achieved this with Pulitzer Prizes and with controversies he had to face head on. He retired as editor in 1991.

Bradlee received the Medal of Freedom from President Obama in 2013. Here, in Ireland, the media exposed wrongdoings by Church and State and is also an important watchdog in protecting our democracy.

Mary Sullivan

Cork Curbing population growth

Recent statistics show that one in eight do not have enough to eat globally.

Almost every 12 or 13 years another billion is added to the global population, yet why does this issue never seem to get the media attention or debate it so crucially deserves?

The world’s scientists spend time searching for cures to life-ending diseases, yet disease is nature’s way of keeping global population numbers at controllable levels.

If there were no diseases – which is what some people would like – countries would have to spend astronomical amounts on aid for famine-stricken nations.

As controversial as it may be, leading nations must at some point face this and restrict population growth through sterilisation.

John O’Brien

Drogheda, Co Louth

Paisley was just one of a kind

I cannot help but think of Peter Robinson’s tribute to Ian Paisley in Stormont last week, in which we were told that we would, “never see [Paisley’s] like again”.

That’s alright by me.

Killian Foley-Walsh


Saving the world – that’s rich

As our former President Mary Robinson expresses her concerns that ‘We’re running out of time to save the world’ perhaps she should take a closer look at the UN.

The UN, in the recent past, has been condemned for the overexpenditure by officials.

Much of the expense is due to upgrading to business and first class airline travel.

Marion Murphy

Sallins, Kildare

U2 take a page from Glen’s book

Recent coverage of U2 and their ‘free’ music reminds me of what the great Glen Campbell once sang: “Looking back, I can remember a time when I sang my songs for free.” So if it’s good enough for Glen . . .

Tom Gilsenan

Beaumont, Dublin 9

A rain dance in a downpour

So, Budget fever has descended again. Meanwhile, people are invited to “apply” for free water that already runs in their taps.

In what is resembling the equivalent of performing a rain dance in the middle of a downpour, the citizens are being asked to hand over their children’s private information.

Considering these two points, is it fair to ask whether those immigrants that are here from the EU will also be getting a water allowance for their children back home in the same way they get children’s allowance.

Or is the children’s allowance just Germany’s (and indeed the troika’s) way of transferring monies within the eurozone at Ireland’s expense?

Might I suggest that Joan Burton attends herself to these poor unfortunate children that live in foreign and cheaper economies with the full benefit of our high-cost allowances.

Perhaps a whistle-stop tour of the former Eastern Bloc countries would be in order.

She might even be accompanied by Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney, fresh in his basking glory of having announced tax incentives to the dairy sector – the one sector of farmers who are not, ironically, complaining about the price of their produce having already benefited from a government hike in the price of their product.

Meanwhile, the rest of us poor plebs can await the drippings from Enda’s table; not unlike those who awaited the soup from the kind Quakers in the times of Trevelyan.

Who knows, if Joan and Simon were to go on such a trip, the vacuum could be filled by the new media darling and historian of some note – John Bruton.

Dermot Ryan

Athenry, Co Galway

Farrell doesn’t need saving

I read with increasing incredulity the disrespectful comments in Ed Power’s article regarding Colin Farrell (‘Can a TV show save Colin’s career?’ Irish Independent, September 23).

By any criteria, Farrell is one of this country’s leading acting talents.

That the article was instigated by his casting as a lead role in a major American television series surely is its own response.

He considers ‘In Bruges’ overrated, although it was a Golden Globe-winning performance by Farrell.

He compares him with other “failures” such as Oscar winners Angelina Jolie and Kevin Spacey. He also complains that Farrell does not live “outrageously enough” as a celebrity.

Having had the privilege of watching Farrell at work, he is a dedicated professional, determined to give his best to the project, able to play comedy and drama with equal success, and encouraging and supportive to everyone in front of and behind the camera.

It is a pity that Mr Power has not had this advantage.

There are many criteria to quantify the success of an acting role, not only Mr Power’s “bums on seats”, but by any balanced view, Farrell is an international success, of whom we should be proud.

James Finnegan

Tralee, Co Kerry

Irish Independent


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