Peter rice

11 November 2014 Peter Rice

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A Very busy day Paper bill, post office Chemist, put Wheelie bin at Joan’s saw Shanti, Co Op.

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


Vivienne Price was a violin teacher who founded the influential National Children’s Orchestra

Vivienne Price: she heard Vivaldi’s A minor violin concerto so often at NCO auditions that she insisted that none of the composer’s music should be played at her funeral

Vivienne Price: she heard Vivaldi’s A minor violin concerto so often at NCO auditions that she insisted none of the composer’s music should be played at her funeral

6:10PM GMT 09 Nov 2014


Vivienne Price, who has died aged 83, founded the National Children’s Orchestra, a group that has provided valuable musical opportunities to generations of children. Among its alumni are the conductors Robin Ticciati and Daniel Harding, the cellist Guy Johnston and the violinist Nicola Benedetti.

Vivienne Price, who had run children’s summer music schools in Surrey, set up the NCO for children aged 7 to 14 in 1978. “I’d always wondered, why do we have a national youth orchestra but nothing for the younger ones,” she told Ivan Hewett in The Daily Telegraph in 2010. “I imagined someone would do something about it one day, but no one did, so I thought, well, I’d better have a go.”

A loan of £60 from a relative was used to produce thousands of leaflets, which were distributed around the country, and the first one-week course was held in Eastbourne, ending with a concert in the Winter Gardens. “We played the Radetzky March,” she recalled, “and I still remember the first rehearsal. It was absolutely awful.”

In the early days the orchestra was run from her sitting room, “bumbling along in a rather amateurish way”. Tutors were brought in from orchestras and music colleges and, as Vivienne Price noted: “The health and safety rules weren’t so onerous in those days.”

That first concert was a sell-out, and she was inundated with applications from children wanting to join. Now there are a dozen groups under the National Children’s Orchestras banner: regional orchestras; orchestras arranged by age; and even a former members’ orchestra. Sir Simon Rattle is president, while Benedetti, who joined at age seven, has returned to perform a concerto.

Vivienne, who in the early years conducted the orchestra herself, was kindly but demanding, enthusing her young charges with a passion for music. Some consider the NCO to be the single most important organisation in putting them on a path to being professional musicians, while even those who do not enter the profession are left with a love of music.

Vivienne Lola Price was born at Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, on January 9 1931, an only child. Her father died while she was a baby and she was raised by her mother in Epsom, Surrey. She set up her first orchestra, rehearsing it in the family’s sitting room, while at school and won at exhibition to the Royal College of Music to study violin.

She taught the violin in Surrey, ran the junior orchestra at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and, in 1960, set up Fitznells school of music in Ewell, Surrey, before her thoughts turned to a national ensemble.

She found support from Dame Ruth Railton, founder of the National Youth Orchestra, who was for a time chairman of the NCO. The relationship between the groups continues and today about half the NYO’s members have graduated from the children’s orchestra.

Vivienne Price

In recent years the NCO has raised its profile while maintaining its family atmosphere. In 2001 Tony Blair invited them to Downing Street; there have been tours to Beijing and Rome as well as appearances on Blue Peter, at the Proms in 2000 and on Classic FM; and in 2012 they performed for the Queen in Westminster Hall.

After suffering ill health in the late 1990s Vivienne Price passed the baton to Roger Clarkson, a trumpet teacher. Fortunately she recovered and was able to maintain her close links with the orchestra, including conducting this summer. Six months ago she was caught up in a controversy about the orchestra’s direction, which has now been resolved as she wished.

After hearing Vivaldi’s A minor violin concerto so often at NCO auditions she stipulated that none of the composer’s music should be played at her funeral.

Vivienne Price, who was appointed MBE in 1997, was divorced in the mid-1980s from her husband, Tony Carter. She is survived by their two sons.

Vivienne Price, born January 9 1931, died November 6 2014


Gerard W Hughes Gerard W Hughes’s best-known book was God of Surprises

Chris McDonnell writes: The obituary of Gerard W Hughes brought out how Pope Francis elaborated on the theme of Gerry’s best-known book, God of Surprises, last month. He spoke of how “God is always new: he never contradicts himself, never says that what he had said was wrong, ever, but he always surprises us.” Gerry showed that the God that inspired him is within all if us. By asking questions of himself he allowed others to ask similar questions.

Andrew Hillier writes: Gerry Hughes was not only an inspirational teacher at Beaumont college, Windsor, but, as Beatlemania broke, encouraged us to question everything we were taught and even led a small philosophy discussion group. An excellent if impetuous sportsman, he was never slow to put on his rugby kit and show that this otherwise most gentle of men was quite prepared to get stuck in and give no quarter.


The Tower poppies (“From the Cenotaph to Kandahar, war dead are honoured”, 10 November) have indeed touched the public.

Hoping to avoid crowds, I cycled down on Sunday soon after dawn, yet before 7am there were thousands around the moat.

There was a great silence. People stood awed, not only the children of the 1939-45 era, but the younger, realising that what looked at first like a deep red sea of blood was composed of representations of every serviceman and woman killed, too vast to be seen at a glance, extending way beyond the corner bastions of the fortress.

We see names on war memorials, scores of them in cities, dozens in villages, wall upon wall of them on the Thiepval arch commemorating those who died at the Somme. Nameless, they were flowing around the Tower, a shattering reminder that death had undone so many.

How impressed were we? How do we react to such an event these days? We photograph it with our phones. We commemorate not only it but also our participation in it. We pose in front of it, being snapped or squinting into selfies. A beaming woman held up her white poodle in front of the vast poignancy of the First World War dead. A group beside me reviewed their iPad: “But there are no smiling ones! Oh, but we must have a smiling one.” They rectified the omission, grinning into the lens as if it had been Blackpool Tower behind them, not the pity of war.

Yet there were many who stood awed and thoughtful, far, far longer, than the stipulated two-minute silences of Remembrance Sunday and 11 November. We will remember these poppies long after they have been uprooted and the sun shines on the grass, just as, eventually, nature returned to the trenched and cratered landscapes of France and Flanders, and life picked itself up, brushed itself down and carried on, leaving nothing but the memory behind.

Peter Forster
London N4

It’s disgraceful that once again the Remembrance Sunday commemoration at London’s Cenotaph gave religion a privileged role. As usual, part of the event was conducted as a religious service, with a Church of England bishop leading a hymn and prayer. Representatives of more than a dozen different religious denominations were present, but atheists have never been invited.

The Cenotaph, which dates from 1920, was deliberately designed as a secular state monument bearing no religious symbols in recognition of the wide diversity of the fallen. The same should apply to the annual ceremony. It should be a fully inclusive occasion.

R M Atkinson

The Government is too spineless to be green

It comes as no surprise that this Government will miss targets for the reduction of carbon emissions (“UK carbon emissions: the stench of missed targets”, 10 November). It is far too spineless to provide the required leadership.

By far the cheapest form of renewable energy is onshore wind. The Government has, in effect, halted its development, in fear of losing the votes of a wealthy minority who care more about their local scenery, which is unlikely to incorporate a coal-fired power station (as mine does). Instead, they hand taxpayers’ cash to the coal-burners.

Road transport is the environmental elephant ignored by politicians, especially those who think they know better than the global scientific community, or who simply prefer to leave the coming catastrophe for their successors to deal with.

Ian East
Islip, Oxfordshire

What message would that be, Ed?

You quote Lucy Powell, who was promoted last week to help run Labour’s election campaign, as challenging Ed Miliband’s critics to “show us your colours and put names to quotes” or else allow the party to get back to its campaigning message (“Miliband ally tells unnamed critics to put up or shut up”, 10 November).

I am a committed member of the Labour Party, but I must ask Ms Powell and Mr Miliband, what campaigning message? If there is one, it is not getting through to party members or the general public. Something needs to be done.

Patricia Jean Morris

Why isn’t the UK doing more for Syrians?

It is extremely concerning that only 24 Syrians fleeing the civil war have been allowed to come to Britain since the UK declined to participate in the broader UN resettlement programme (“UN: world faces largest refugee crisis in decades”, 4 November).

Evidence of human rights violations, including torture, in Syria is overwhelming. Earlier this year, a report evidenced the depths of the Syrian regime’s brutality, and the US Holocaust Museum is now displaying the photographic evidence of deaths. Human Rights Watch has released evidence of the torture of children by Isis forces.

We believe that Syrian children and adults made vulnerable by torture are still not accessing appropriate protection, treatment and support. Many would have a right to refuge in international law, including in the UK, under the Refugee Convention, and to rehabilitation under the UN Convention Against Torture. The UK has ratified both these conventions and should act accordingly.

Susan Munroe
Chief executive, Freedom from Torture
London N7


Take a French lesson on school discipline

David Felton (letter, 5 November), having spent a large part of his adult life working in teacher training, holds that the role of a schoolteacher should be to educate children, rather than to instil discipline where parents have failed.

I was fortunate enough to spend a year as a student in the Paris suburbs many years ago. Teachers taught their subjects, generally without the need to play power games with the pupils. If there was any need for the exercise of disciplinary measures, this was the function of special non-teaching staff, called surveillants.

It should have been the duty of British civil servants, ministers and Mr Felton’s colleagues in teacher training to keep abreast of best-practice in the rest of the world. How they seem to have been ignorant of the surveillant system of our closest neighbour defies belief.

Ben Marshall
London N11

Private education isn’t always expensive

The new head of the University of Birmingham proclaims that he will offer an education for which you would have to pay £30,000 in the independent sector (“University state school offers ‘£30,000-a-year standards’ to pupils”, 6 November).

He knows very well that such a sum is paid at boarding schools which also provide board and lodging. The fees of this independent school are just over £11,000 and 40 per cent of the pupils here don’t even pay that much. Indeed, 15 per cent of them pay nothing at all.

John Claughton
Chief Master
King Edward’s School, Birmingham

Even the Victorians knew jail didn’t work

In 1895, a Royal Commission reporting on the efficacy of prison, in the days of harsh treatment, the capstan, the treadmill, the birch, bread and water and stone breaking, discovered that half the prisoners had come back for more. Some were back in prison more than 10 times.

Since then, it seems, nobody has taken much notice. Even the gallant Simon Hughes is 120 years adrift (“Minister denounces prison ‘madness’”, 6 November) and Chris Grayling ignores the lessons of history. When will we learn that there are much better ways of dealing with lawbreakers than locking them up?

Ted Clark
Leamington Spa, Warwickshire


How about a daily page of EU news?

With regard to us British not knowing much about the workings of the EU (letter, 7 November), could it be time for The Independent to devote a page to the subject? “Yesterday at the EU Commission”, perhaps?

We really need to know what our representatives are doing, and what plans are being made for rules or laws that will affect us.

C Richardson
Llandysul, Ceredigion

Fireworks predate Guy Fawkes

Further to your correspondence on bonfire night and fireworks, it is worth remembering that their origin has nothing at all to do with Guy Fawkes. It lies in the great Celtic festival of Samhain, which marked the ending of the year and the propitious “in between time” when the Otherworld was thought to open up and the spirits of the dead return.

Unexpected bangs and lights were introduced for added effect.

Dominic Kirkham


Sir, While we remember those who have fallen in combat serving their country, we should also give thought to those who served and died in the non-combative Cold War. My time in the RAF was served entirely throughout this period and a number of my colleagues died as we sought to maintain the highest effectiveness, often by adopting new tactics using existing equipment, such as the large V-bombers dropping from high level to low level operations. The Army and Royal Navy also took losses. Although no campaign medals were awarded in this “war”, their families should know that those who died have not been forgotten.
Air Vice-Marshal Barry Higgs (rtd)

Sir, The ceremony at the Cenotaph has within it a Christian religious service, reflecting that our society is based on the Christian ethos and that the Christian faith remains, however residually, the religion of most people of this country. Representatives of other faiths attend that occasion and appear to be content with that arrangement.
To find out that the National Secular Society is trying to downplay that Christian element is crass and devious: crass because to start such a debate at this sensitive time shows a disregard for the feelings of millions of people, including those who have lost loved ones; devious because it is yet another attempt to eradicate any set of ethical or religious beliefs from society and replace it with some vague free-for-all that will only deepen the moral vacuum that already exists.
Simon Gordon
Faversham, Kent

Sir, I was shocked at the behaviour of staff at Costa Coffee at Terminal Two, Heathrow Airport. During the two minutes’ silence, when there was universal quiet and respectful lack of movement, loud pop music emanated from the café. It was finally turned off with amused smiles from the staff. During the Last Post, the baristas continued to make coffees on their noisy machines. Clearly, the significance of the moment was lost on them.
Charlotte Vickerstaff
Kimpton Bottom, Herts

Sir, Surely the £1 million for a memorial to honour those fallen in the wars in Iran and Afghanistan suggested by Mr Cameron (News, Nov 9) could be better spent in building hostels for the survivors of these wars, made homeless or unable to find a job. Build a living memorial to benefit these men, not yet another block of stone.
Lady Sarah Atcherley
London W2

Sir, I took my teenage children to see the Tower of London poppies. Our emotions were sadness at the futility of so many lives wasted. In no way was this experience a motivation to send more youngsters to their deaths, for duty or patriotism. Maybe those like Richard Kemp (Opinion, Nov 8) feel they have a right to inspire others to fight, but in our case the representations of the fallen gave a powerful reason not to.
Susan Brown
Hunstanton, Norfolk

Sir, On hearing Sheila Hancock’s idea of using a tank to mow down the precious porcelain poppies in the Tower of London (News, Nov 8) my heart jumped in horror — and yet what better picture could be painted for the world to see the utter wastage, horror and pain of war?
Janet Curmi
Buckland, Oxon

Sir, My father was a soldier in the Battle of the Somme. He never talked about the war but he did teach me how to tie my shoelace. He said that if you were “going over the top” you didn’t want your laces to come undone. If every day we could all remember the sacrifice of the fallen by the simple act of tying our shoes, then some good could come out of that awful time.
Enid Deeble
St Ives, Cornwall

Sir, On a wet day recently I saw the red paper petal of a British Legion poppy on the ground in St Paul’s churchyard in London. Sodden, dirty, expended, disregarded, torn, trodden on, it was more emblematic of the typical Western Front casualty than the neat, clean hordes in the Tower of London ditch.
WF Hemmens
Knockholt, Kent

Sir, With reference to the letter on grockles and emmets (letter, Nov 7). When we retired to North Yorkshire we learnt from a taxi driver that as new residents we were more welcome than transitory visitors. They were “Nowt but ‘Comfort People’ ”. Intrigued, we asked for an explanation. He confidently quoted his wife: “People that come for’t weekend.”
Wendy Gardner
Leyburn, N Yorks

Sir, As “Storytime” leader at a library I do not understand why authors criticise this activity (“Could librarians please shush, we’re reading”, Nov 8). For half an hour a week the peace is broken by storytelling and nursery rhymes, but during that time children are learning to listen, use their imagination and discover the pleasure of books. Surely authors should welcome such activities as we are encouraging the book buyers of the future.
Elizabeth Bentley

Sir, I was delighted to read in your interview with Michael Bond (Nov 1) that he was able to avoid the inclusion in Paddington, the forthcoming film, of an implausible scene with immigration authorities at Paddington station. Although Home Office officials in the postwar years would probably have handled Paddington’s predicament with sensitivity, our favourite bear is now protected from the Border Agency’s often brisk demeanour. In 2008, during the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first Paddington book, I provided Paddington with a Peruvian diplomatic passport, in compliance with instructions from the foreign office of darkest Peru. In the absence of Mr and Mrs Brown, Mr Bond received the document on Paddington’s behalf.
Ricardo V Luna
Former ambassador to the Court of St James’s, London SW8

Sir, Paul Johnson’s article “Whichever way you cut it, taxes need to rise”, (Nov 7) is right to highlight the limp prognosis for tax receipts but wrong to suggest that this means that rates need to rise. High tax rates are associated with sluggish economic growth; and as labour and capital mobility increase, that relationship is strengthening. Far from being too low, taxes are too high and we need to cut and simplify them to compete not only with the emerging economies that are catching up with us but also with the low-tax economies which have already overtaken ours. For that to happen we need a war on wasteful spending and a discussion about the functions of government. We need to reduce spending, not hike taxes.
John O’Connell
Director, TaxPayers’ Alliance

Sir, Paul Johnson does not understand the mood in this country. The government collects £636 billion in taxes — more than £10,000 a year for every resident. Surely it should cut spending to match its income. Better still, it should review why it needs so much money.
Melvin Haskins
Barnet, London


SIR – We now know what we have hitherto only suspected, namely that, should David Cameron get the opportunity, he will go to Brussels with a list of demands which he wants renegotiated. He will achieve none but tell us he has achieved all of them.

Peter Corke
Ivybridge, Devon

SIR – There can be no better example of why people have such little faith in the current political system than George Osborne’s claim that he has halved Britain’s £1.7 billion EU budget surcharge.

Britain will pay two sums next year totalling £850 million, instead of a larger lump sum by December 1. However the UK rebate of £785 million from Brussels, due in 2016, has simply been brought forward to cover the other half due.

To argue that this was some sort of “victory” for Britain is an insult to our intelligence.

Alex Orr

SIR – If this is victory, what on earth does defeat look like?

Mark Hudson
Smarden, Kent

SIR – If Mr Osborne’s negotiations constituted a 50 per cent reduction, what glorious Micawberish utterance can we expect after the “negotiations” about our EU membership?

Peter Thompson
Sutton, Surrey

SIR – Despite the dissembling nature of George Osborne’s claim that he has managed to cut Britain’s extra contribution by half, £850 million is still a lot of money.

The absurdity of a system that penalises a country successfully putting its economic house in order, while subsidising other profligate nations, remains the same.

Quentin Skinner
Lower Zeals, Wiltshire

SIR – Politicians of various stripes have been jumping up and down, declaring how unfair it is that, just because the economy has done so well, Britain should pay more money to the EU.

These, surely, can’t be the same politicians who think that people who have worked harder should pay more tax?

Geoff Newton
Tighnabruaich, Argyll

SIR – Britain’s unwillingness to pay the latest Brussels demand is compared by Peter Turvey (Letters, November 8) to a gas-user refusing to pay for the gas used over and above the pre-payment amount.

A better comparison is with someone who has grossly overpaid during the year (with his excess being distributed to the under-payers who went away on holiday leaving the gas-fire burning) and then receives a further financial demand from the gas company to bolster the bank-balances of those same profligates.

A G Holdridge
Doncaster, South Yorkshire

Quantum Archers

SIR – Surely Jenny Phillips (Letters, November 7) is wrong to identify Rob in The Archers as a possible psychotic killer. It is more likely that he has been parachuted into Ambridge by a paedophile ring to groom Henry. (Is it Henry? I mean Helen’s child. Is it Helen?)

The charm of The Archers is that it remains always the same and always utterly different.

Characters who are indistinguishable without the aid of a powerful electron microscope contrive to be in two places simultaneously, morphing from one role to another. Even after 30 years of listening, I remain vague as to who exactly Jill is.

So long as The Archers retains this quality of uncertainty, like that of sub-atomic particles, it doesn’t matter what the editor or the script writers do. God’s in his heaven, and all’s right with the world.

Patrick Scrivenor
Weald, Kent

SIR – So David and Ruth are making a business decision and leaving their farm at a moment of high angst – trying to sell when there are a mountain of uncertainties.

Of course that is what a sound business mind would do – it is definitely not a good idea to sell the farm once the uncertainties are resolved and the compensation for the new bypass is in place.

Surely a plot line should be believable in some fashion. The Archers is not EastEnders. A pizza is not a chicken casserole.

Nuala James
Mellor, Cheshire

Wanted: an election

SIR – The Coalition may not be falling apart but it is a less happy and effective entity than it was when formed in 2010.

If the crazy Fixed-term Parliaments Act had not been brought in, there would have been a general election to sort things out.

The ability to dissolve Parliament and call an election within the five-year maximum term has been a valuable part of our much envied parliamentary system.

Anthony Shone
West Kirby, Wirral

Ed cert

SIR – Now Lord Kinnock has stated that he can detect no threat to Ed Miliband’s leadership of the Labour Party.

Bye bye, Ed.

Gareth Williams
Berkeley, Gloucestershire

You live where?

SIR – Geoffrey Aldridge (Letters, November 8) asks for examples of sobriquets for places in Britain. Deal is known as Soho-on-Sea, by virtue of the writers, artists, and thespians who have migrated here.

Professor Irving Benjamin
Deal, Kent

SIR – To those who could no longer afford to live north of the Thames, Battersea became known as Chelsea South.

John Fingleton
London W1

SIR – I live on the opposite side of the estuary from Rock and refer to it in the high season as the Occupied Territories.

Jane Cullinan
Padstow, Cornwall

SIR – Southend-on-Sea: the Last Resort.

David Askew
Woking, Surrey

SIR – Would “Hove actually” qualify?

Trevellyan Austin
Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire

Science means jobs

SIR – Skills learnt in mathematics and science lessons will be crucial to future jobs in every field. The employment market is becoming more dependent on technical and analytical skills and people who can understand and build new technologies.

Despite progress in recent years, Britain is still not producing enough graduates and skilled apprentices with a science, technology, engineering and mathematics background. A misperception persists that these subjects are too difficult and not relevant for the majority. Maths and science will open up a world of career opportunities, and not only do we need young people to recognise this, we need teachers and parents to recognise it too.

We are joining together to support the Your Life campaign launched today by Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary. This is a business-led campaign to change the conversation about science, technology, engineering and maths as essential for young people. We urgently need to boost young people’s career opportunities and to equip British businesses with the talent they need to ensure long-term growth.

Ian King
Chief Executive, BAE Systems

Richard Howson
Chief Executive, Carillion

Barb Samardzich
Vice President, Ford Europe

Jane Griffiths
Company Group Chairman, Janssen EMEA

Richard Martin
Technical Director, Nestlé UK & Ireland

Debra Valentine
Group Executive, Rio Tinto

Sally Martin
Vice President, Downstream, Shell

Dr Steve Perry
Chief Digital Officer, Visa Europe

Dear old cheese

SIR – If milk is cheaper than water (Letters, November 7), why is cheese so expensive?

Paul Costello
Newcastle upon Tyne

Waggly dog story

SIR – Lita Roza, who recorded How Much is that Doggie in the Window? really did dislike the song (Letters, November 8).

She was our neighbour in the Nineties and I often met her walking her beloved dog Hobo. Despite telling me how much she loathed the song, she sang it to me and my two small children while we sat on a bench on Wandsworth Common.

Caroline Moorcroft
Bakewell, Derbyshire

No hint of religion on normal Christmas stamps

Snow and pillar-box: the Royal Mail’s ‘normal’ Christmas stamps

SIR – One morning during the past week I took the opportunity of purchasing a number of the 2014 Royal Mail Christmas stamps.

I was rather taken aback when asked by the postmaster, whether I wanted “normal” or religious. Isn’t this distinction missing the point somewhat?

John H Greenhill
Kenilworth, Warwickshire

Ghosts that can’t just be explained away

SIR – I grew up in a 16th-century farmhouse reputed to have been used by the Parliamentarians at the time of Naseby.

We regularly heard ringing footsteps on the flagstones in front of the house, then hammering at the door. The whole family heard it at once, at any time, day or night. There was never anyone there.

The house was a quarter of a mile from the road, in an isolated area, so it was doubtful any mischief-maker would have gone to such trouble. There was no creepy atmosphere in the house, and we just accepted that we’d had another visit from our ghost (Letters, Saturday, November 8).

Jean Stephenson
Farnham, Surrey

SIR – In 1963 I saw a ghost of an Albion-type lorry driving straight towards my car on a misty evening on a section of the Old A1 near Newark, where the road followed the meanderings of the river Trent.

This apparition really scared me, but I mentioned it to no one until I read, in about 1965, of several people who had seen this ghost.

I am a wellie-wearing farmer not prone to hallucinations. I’d be interested, if, through The Daily Telegraph, more light could be shed on this ghost.

Angus Jacobsen
Inverbervie, Angus

SIR – I was driving my wife back from lunch recently near Stratford-upon-Avon, a journey we make weekly.

As I turned into a narrow lane, I had a strong feeling that a child was going to run out into the road. I slowed down to under 20mph. Just before the end of the lane, a young boy ran out from behind a parked car and I pulled up with his hands touching the bonnet of my car.

Whether it was a guardian angel or not, someone was looking after both of us.

Robert Mulraine
Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire

The father of one the Lockerbie victims continues to ask why the disaster was not prevented

Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter was killed in the Lockerbie bombing in 1988

Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter was killed in the Lockerbie bombing in 1988 Photo: PA

4:12PM GMT 10 Nov 2014


SIR – The fascinating release today of recorded conversations between Margaret Thatcher while prime minister and President Ronald Reagan, dating from the 1983 American invasion of Grenada, may give hope of future penetration of the mysteries which still obscure the truth over Britain’s biggest ever loss of life to terrorism: the Lockerbie disaster of December 1988, when 270 innocent lives were lost, including that of my daughter Flora, aged 23.

Lady Thatcher recorded in The Downing Street Years (1993) that Reagan’s precipitate action over Grenada made Britain look impotent, and her references to previous exchanges between No 10 and the White House confirm this impotence.

In the case of Lockerbie, the target had been specifically American, but the plane had been loaded with the bomb at our Heathrow airport. The majority of deaths were American citizens, but upwards of 30 were British.

As the “management” of the Lockerbie disaster unfolded, there were again rumours of telephone exchanges between Downing Street and Washington, apparently agreeing to downplay the origins and implications of the disaster.

A bizarre trial of two accused Libyans followed in Holland, which did inestimable harm to the reputation of Scottish justice, through the gymnastics required to achieve a guilty verdict in the absence of trustworthy evidence.

To this has been added a sorry tale of buck-passing and foot-dragging between the English, the Scots and the US authorities, through all the intervening years. This involved the repeated use of public-interest immunity certificates denying documents to the Libyans’ defence team, and of course to us, the British relatives of the dead.

In The Downing Street Years Lady Thatcher dealt with the fall-out that followed her assistance to President Reagan in arranging the bombing of Tripoli and Benghazi in 1986. She wrote: “The much vaunted Libyan counter attack did not and could not take place.” Who then was really responsible for Lockerbie?

Her book was published two years after the Libyans had simultaneously been indicted by Britain and America over the execution of the Lockerbie atrocity. I wrote to ask Lady Thatcher for an explanation, and a reply dated December 3 1993 said:

“Thank you for your letter about the Libyan raid. As you know in the book I went into some detail on this matter and I have tried to indicate the nature of the decision which took place. I don’t think I can add anything useful to that account.

“May I say how much I have thought of the parents and relatives of all those killed in the Lockerbie disaster. The fact that the terrorists responsible have not been brought to justice has added to your unhappiness and anxiety. It is a cause of great concern to me too.

“I most earnestly hope that the matter will be resolved and soon.”

Such are the emollients from the secret world. Her wish for prompt resolution could have been met at any time by her successors in office, all of whom have refused a full inquiry.

We understand that, despite current moves to reduce the influence of the European Convention on Human Rights currently enshrined in UK law, citizens still have the right to share the Government’s knowledge concerning who really killed their families and why those families were not protected.

We now know that Heathrow airside was broken into 16 hours before Lockerbie, but that, far from stopping all outgoing flights after that discovery till airside had been thoroughly searched, the airport took no action. This break-in was known to the Metropolitan Police within days and to the Scots within a month, but was concealed entirely from us, and from the court in Holland 10 years later.

The disaster appears to have been eminently preventable. Why did that prevention so spectacularly fail?

Protection of citizens against terrorism is still trumpeted as one of Government’s prime responsibilities. We are not alone in wondering just why the Lockerbie flight simply was not protected despite all the warnings received beforehand.

Dr Jim Swire
Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire

Irish Times:

A chara, – If all the jobs in Ireland that were boring or undermined the dignity of the person were banned, as Senator Ivana Bacik urges for sex service providers, the unemployment figures would sky-rocket (“Ireland should adopt a ban on purchase of sex”, Opinion & Analysis, November 7th). We have laws in place that should be vigorously enforced to deal with cases of violence and forced sex. Consensual sex between two adults in private should not be a criminal offence, whether or not money is involved. – Is mise,


Toronto, Canada.

Sir, – The enthusiasm of many for the criminalisation of human behaviour very often defies common sense. The views expressed by Ivana Bacik are worrying and would seem closer to the American fundamentalist Christian right than to a progressive European position.

In a 2010 report, the UN special rapporteur on the right to health, Anand Graver, called upon states “to repeal all laws criminalising sex work and practices around it, and to establish appropriate regulatory frameworks within which sex workers can enjoy the safe working conditions to which they are entitled”.

The report goes on to say that “the trafficking and enforced sexual slavery of any person is abhorrent, and undoubtedly merits criminal prohibition. However, the conflation of consensual sex work and sex trafficking in such legislation leads to, at best, the implementation of inappropriate responses that fail to assist either of these groups in realising their rights and, at worst, to violence and oppression.”

Furthermore, the report of the UNAIDS Advisory Group on HIV and Sex Work, published in 2011, is very critical of methods such as the Swedish model, stating “Stigma and discrimination within society results in repressive laws, policies and practices against sex work, and the economic disempowerment of sex workers. Policies and programmes to reduce the demand for sex work . . . ignoring the voices of sex workers, often result in unintended harms including increased HIV risk and vulnerability for sex workers and their clients, and diverting attention from protecting sex workers’ rights. The frequent failure of policymakers, religious leaders and society to distinguish sex work from human trafficking has sometimes led to involuntary displacement, harassment or detention of sex workers.”

Referring specifically to the Swedish model, the report notes, “In Sweden and Norway, the buying of sex is criminalised, an approach based on the idea that the client may merit punishment, but the sex worker is a ‘victim’. There is very little evidence to suggest that any criminal laws related to sex work reduce demand for sex or the number of sex workers. Rather, all of them create an environment of fear and marginalisation for sex workers, who often have to work in remote and unsafe locations to avoid arrest of themselves or their clients.”

Instead of eliminating prostitution, the unintended consequences of adopting the Swedish model in Ireland are likely to see sex work being driven further underground, an increase in the risks for the women and men who sell sex, and increased difficulties for them in accessing health services.

For some, sex work is their only source of income and their means of providing for their families. Criminalising their clients will put these sex workers at increased risk of poverty, and lead to further stigmatisation and marginalisation.

Symbolic laws are a folly that Ireland cannot afford, especially when the health and safety of women are at stake. – Yours, etc,


Wellington Bridge,

Co Wexford.

Sir, – I was very disappointed to read Ivana Bacik’s article advocating that Ireland should adopt the “Nordic/Swedish model” of criminalising the purchase rather than the sale of sex work. I’ve long supported Ms Bacik, due primarily to her feminism, but regretfully can no longer do so.

Criminalising clients makes it harder for sex workers to do background checks or exchange information which keeps them safe.

Criminalisation of any kind places further scrutiny on sex workers themselves, not their clients. This is borne out by evidence in Scandinavia, where the majority of police actions under the “Nordic model” have targeted workers and their places of business, with only a vanishingly small number of clients facing any kind of punishment.

Most active sex workers advocate for decriminalisation (as distinct from legalisation), giving them the safe recourse to the protections which are (or should be) available to others, and destigmatisation, allowing safer transition out of the sex industry should they wish to leave. Conflating all sex workers with trafficking victims has long been a tool for ivory tower feminists to marginalise sex workers who are perfectly capable of speaking for themselves. Denying a sex worker’s ability to consent is also to deny her autonomy, a distinctly un-feminist position.

The real problems within sex work lie not with moral grandstanding about the “sex” but the unequal position of women in society, the “work”. Economic equality will always be a safer place for marginalised women than enforced victimhood. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 18.

Sir, – Considering the amount of talk about women being trafficked into Ireland there would seem to be a conspicuous absence of actual numbers; we are being bombarded with statistics and percentages but without being told how many people are actually involved. Changing the law is and should be a very serious matter, if we are to do this then I think we should be fully informed of the true extent of the problem that we are being told exists. I doubt if I am alone in thinking that there is something wrong in bringing in a law that would appear to be for the sole purpose of criminalising men who engage in the purchase of sex; it’s a little like only prosecuting someone who buys illegal drugs but allowing the drug dealer go scot free. – Yours, etc,


Dalkey, Co Dublin.

A chara, – Ivana Bacik makes it clear that the majority of women involved in prostitution would rather not be and that the trade is inherently exploitative. Additionally, she underscores the fact that the easier it is to purchase sex the more likely it is that women will be coerced or trafficked into this industry; too much money is involved for it to be otherwise. There is nothing consensual about those women’s involvement; they are raped repeatedly every day for the gratification and profit of others. Anything that acts to alleviate their misery is to be welcomed, even if it makes life more difficult for those who say they are involved by choice and those who feel they can purchase the bodies of others for sex in a respectful and non-exploitative way. – Is mise,


Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny.

Sir, – While the recent Luxembourg leaks are not surprising, they do raise the question of what is being done to address such damaging practices (“Luxleaks loopholes under scrutiny”, November 10th).

Aggressive tax avoidance deprives states of vital revenue, while benefiting only those companies in a position to engage in international tax avoidance schemes, and those that advise them.

Such tax avoidance may indeed be legal but, as recent Christian Aid reports have shown, the morality of such schemes is far less clear.

The poorest countries in the world lose billions every year to tax dodging, yet have little or no say in how the global rules are being developed under the much-heralded OECD Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (Beps) project.

The OECD has taken the lead in developing new rules designed to eliminate some of the more egregious instances of tax avoidance. However the OECD is in essence a club for rich countries, and poor countries have no seat at the table when the problems and solutions are discussed.

The Luxembourg leaks provide more evidence of the problems, but for the vast majority of governments around the world there is still little confidence they will benefit from the solutions under discussion. – Yours, etc,


Head of Advocacy

and Policy,

Christian Aid Ireland,

Clanwilliam Terrace,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – All of the companies named in relation to Luxgate this week have one thing in common. They were playing by the rules.

And that’s the problem. The rules are rigged in their favour and as a result governments the world over are missing out on billions of potential tax revenue. This money could be used to fund essential public services such as health and education instead of lining corporate pockets.

Luxgate comes as heads of state from the world’s 20 richest countries prepare to meet in Brisbane, Australia, for the G20 summit to agree on the next steps for reforming corporate tax rules. These governments need to walk the talk by adopting ambitious rules that will benefit all countries, including developing countries that suffer to the tune of approximately €83 billion every year from corporate tax ruses.

Currently, developing countries are barely consulted on the new sets of rules, and cannot participate in these discussions on an equal footing. Instead, reforms are being discussed within the OECD – a group of exclusively rich countries that ironically includes several tax havens, such as Luxembourg.

The last two decades have seen huge progress in the fight to end extreme poverty; millions more people now have access to healthcare and education, and approximately 150 million fewer men and women are going hungry every day. Yet rising inequality – fuelled in part by tax dodging – means this progress risks being undermined and, in some cases, reversed.

Oxfam’s Even It Up campaign calls for companies to pay their fair share of taxes so citizens in countries across the globe can benefit.

It’s time for consumers and citizens to make their voices heard for equality. – Yours, etc,


Chief Executive,

Oxfam Ireland,

Portview House,


Dublin 4.

Sir, – The article “Renewable energy commitments ‘could cost extra €200m’” (November 3rd) cites claims that Ireland’s renewable energy commitments could add €200 million a year to the cost of electricity.

Throughout Europe, the ageing energy system requires updating, both in terms of generation and infrastructure. Europe is dependent on imported energy – at a cost of more than €400 billion annually. Ireland is even more dependent on imported energy on which it spends €6.5 billion a year – and while coal might be cheap now, the world coal price can rise and then Irish coal power will be much more expensive. Such developments are beyond Ireland’s control, unlike in the case of domestically sourced renewables.

The renewable energy directive adopted by the EU in 2009 set binding targets for renewable energy to be reached by 2020. These targets can be reached by increasing the share of energy from renewable sources, including wind, solar, hydroelectric and tidal power, geothermal energy and biomass. The targets aim at diversifying the EU’s energy supply by reducing the dependence on oil and gas; and reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Ireland’s target for 2020 is to ensure that 16 per cent of its energy demand will come from renewable energy sources. The share of renewable energy reached 7.2 per cent of energy consumption in 2012. While there is still some way to go, projections indicate that Ireland is on the right path to achieving its 2020 target, provided that investments come on stream as projected in the Irish National Renewable Energy Plan.

As recently as October 23rd, EU leaders agreed a new policy framework to make the European Union’s economy and energy system more competitive, secure and sustainable to 2030. As part of this, it confirmed the importance of increasing the share of renewable energy, setting a target of at least 27 per cent for renewable energy by 2030 to be delivered by the 28 member states in a joint effort. This will help ensure regulatory certainty for investors and a co-ordinated approach among member states. As is the case for the 2020 targets, member states have flexibility to choose the technologies to promote in their own territories.

With greater overall system flexibility coming on stream, including through better grids, improved grid management, enhanced demand response and management, there will not be a need for one-to-one backup gas plants as cited in your article. – Yours, etc,


Head of the

European Commission

Representation in Ireland,

Dawson Street, Dublin 2.

Sir, – Frank McDonald writes that “the vast majority of Dun Laoghaire residents said nothing until confronted by the physical presence of the building” (“Why I love Dún Laoghaire library”, November 8th). The vast majority of residents in Ireland are not trained in envisioning the physical presence of a building before it is built. That’s what architects and planners are supposed to be for. The building may have the redeeming grace of “spatial drama within”. However it seems to me and it seems also the vast majority of residents that it may possibly be the right building but it is definitely in the wrong place. Those who profess to be trained in envisioning “physical presence” were obviously absent when the plans were presented. – Yours, etc,


Avoca Road,

Blackrock, Co Dublin.

Sir, – The view of the library while swimming in Scotsman’s Bay seems to resemble a Gothic ocean liner. Will Frank McDonald join me for a swim so we can perhaps agree that it is a great maritime monument? – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.

Sir, – Frank McDonald neglects to mention one of the main attractions of the new building’s interior – it is the only place on the seafront where you cannot see the ghastly exterior. – Yours, etc,


Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin.

Sir, – What a beautiful addition to the skyline of Dún Laoghaire. One slight quibble; despite its recent official opening, the library doors will not open to the public until December 8th. Should the library itself not be fined 70 cent per day for this overdue date? – Yours, etc,


Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – As one of the many Catalans who see no contradiction between their Spanish and Catalan identities, I believe Richard Fitzpatrick’s article “Push for separatist state muddies waters of Barcelona’s glorious reign in Spain” (Sport, November 7th) reflects the confusion and misunderstandings that are generated by the “Catalan question”.

The description of the migrants from the rest of Spain, who are today part of the Catalan society, as a “besieged minority . . . a million of whom support Real Madrid” is very unfortunate. Even less fortunate is the assertion that “they resent that their kids are educated through the Catalan language”.

As an integral part of Spanish society, Catalan society is inclusive, open and plural. The Catalan language is fully recognised by the Spanish constitution and extensively used at school. Some parents in Catalonia have also requested for their children their constitutional right to be educated in Spanish, which, together with Catalan, is the official language in Catalonia.

The characterisation of FC Barcelona as “Catalonia’s unarmed army internationally” is not only a dangerous metaphor but also disdainful of the rest of Catalan football clubs that also represent the feelings of the Catalans.

The assertions in the article regarding the legal and political process in Catalonia are out of context. The suspension by the constitutional court of the so-called “participatory consultation” of November 9th was sustained by the rule of law, a fundamental pillar in any democratic society.

The “Catalan question” is indeed one of the greatest challenges in today’s Spain. I am fully convinced that wisdom and common sense will prevail and that “El Clásico – FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid” will continue to be one of the most beautiful and passionate rivalries in sports anywhere, making the Spanish Liga the best in the world. – Yours, etc,


Chargé d´Affaires

of the Embassy of Spain,

Merlyn Park,

Dublin 4.

Sir , – With reference to Donald Clarke’s article “Badly behaved children don’t deserve a place at the cafe table” (November 1st), I have to point out that things could be worse. Last week my wife and I were in a restaurant in Monaco where there were three dogs present – and one of them was seated at a table being fed by its lady owner. – Yours, etc,


Dalkey, Co Dublin.

Sir, – The uncontrolled children problem is not an exclusive preserve of dining establishments. As I recently joined a queue at an express checkout in a local supermarket, I watched in disbelief as a woman loudly encouraged her toddler to scan 18 items for purchase. The child dropped some goods and had to repeatedly scan others as the mother cooed and beamed her approval, oblivious to the nine customers who waited patiently and without complaint. I do not classify myself as a curmudgeon but I suggest the Victorians had the right idea. – Yours, etc,


Terenure, Dublin 6W.

Irish Independent:

No one will ever stand over my grave and say “wasn’t she great at paying her water tax” but it will be at that exact moment that my children will evaluate the quality of the years I gave them.

The legacy of Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen has resulted in our two children being raised in childcare centres like hens.

Meanwhile, we work, breaking our necks and our children’s hearts trying to keep up with tax after tax, with nothing left by the end of the month. We never financially over extended ourselves or left a bill unpaid, but still my two very young children are out of their home every day for longer hours than the average industrial worker … as we work to meet another tax on our income.

Our reasons for not protesting before were exhaustion, anxiety, fear and not a minute to spare, but this is where it ends.

As the Irish Government has chosen to protect those responsible for the financial crash and has seen many pensioned off, I’m choosing to protect my children.

To do this, I will do whatever it takes to give my children back their childhood … they will be at home, collected from school by me, and enjoy the security of a home life that should be an option afforded to every child. This will obviously mean a reduction to our income, resulting in overdue bills and unpaid taxes but that stress will be a holiday compared to the exhausting days we currently endure, dragging the children from their beds at 6.30am, starting and ending the day in a house filled with children’s tears of frustration and confusion as we pay for others’ greed.

So you see, this Government has pushed an exhausted family one step too far. Let’s see who picks up the tab in the long run, Mr Kenny.

Donna Hartnett

Co Cork


It’s not rocket science

Surely there is a group of rocket scientists somewhere in the world scratching their heads in utter bafflement at the manner in which Irish Water was set up.

Item one, they might posit, whatever you do, don’t set up a bonus system for the senior managers, in a country where the majority of the people are barely able to feed their children, and in a country that was ruined by bankers driven to lend recklessly, partially as a result of a bonus culture in banking.

Item two, don’t talk down to people, by telling them that they misuse or overuse water.

Item three, don’t go asking for personal information that the police would need a court order to obtain.

Item four, don’t make people pay for leaks on top of paying for water – it isn’t the people’s fault that successive administrations failed to do what they were elected to do.

Item five, whatever you do, don’t threaten to reduce people’s water to a trickle if they refuse to cooperate with the water regime, that’s just mad; not even the maddest dictators, presiding over the meekest populations, would do something like that.

Declan Doyle

Lisdowney, Co Kilkenny


Unregulated vaping

As a recent convert to vaping (using electronic cigarettes) I was astounded to discover that the practice is banned in the Aviva Stadium – not because it is criminal or dangerous, but because it is “unregulated”.

On several occasions my view of the game was impeded by slack- bladdered drinkers going to the toilet. Is this “regulated”? If not, why not? I felt like kicking their ankles.

The Irish scrum and lineout caused me grave discomfort in the chest and heart areas. Will they “regulate” for this?

And Mike Ross was compelled to play for 74 minutes. Surely this should be “regulated”?

The result was great, and I vaped all night when I got home.

Tom Farrell

Swords, Co Dublin


Solving the surrogacy dilemma

Surrogacy seems to me a fantastic way for a couple who desire a child that is genetically theirs, but who are unable to carry that child into the world without the help of another woman’s womb. However, our legal system has been unable to agree with what most of us would understand as the “mother”, ruling that it is the surrogate who must be considered the legal mother of a child.

In response, the suggestion was made in this paper by David Quinn to ban the practice of surrogacy altogether (Irish Independent, November 8, 2014). While there might be room for debate about the ethics of “renting your womb,” it seems to me rather draconian to not allow a sister, friend, or even well-meaning stranger to help another woman in this manner.

Might I suggest a very simple solution to this whole affair: a ‘surrogate birth form’, whereby both the genetic and surrogate mothers’ names appear, with one of these names being marked as the legal guardian of the child.

In this manner, the contribution of all parties is acknowledged in the legal record of birth and it is clear as to whom the child belongs.

Phil Miesle

Ennis, Co Clare


The godless delusion

Whatever we may think of the churches’ role in Ireland today, we are no better served by some of the alternatives. We are regularly regaled with naive forms of atheism expressed by the parroting of half-baked ideas, providing neither hope nor insight in a very needy world.

Equating religious faith with belief in the Tooth Fairy or in Santa Claus is taken as a killer blow to belief in a god. Many of my atheist friends find these views an embarrassment, as they trivialise one of the most significant debates of our time. We are well rid of the god disposed of by Richard Dawkins in ‘The God Delusion’. He has done us all a favour. This was a god conjured up in his worst nightmares – a cruel, fickle, domineering and enslaving monster, threatening the torture of hell as the price to pay for non-submission to his autocratic rule.

To be fair to Dawkins, however, he had mostly in mind the excesses of the American television evangelists who seem impervious to the evidence of science in our understanding of the origins of the universe.

Thankfully, there are many very articulate atheists and secularists who have a genuine concern for the truth. They have a refined sense of what most believers actually believe, allied to a genuine appreciation of truth and sincerity. In their hands, atheism becomes a reasonable alternative to theism, particularly when engaged in offering a vision of the future that resonates with the needs of the world.

The default position of atheism, for me, is not so much radical belief but agnosticism, acknowledging that dogmatic certainty from whatever quarter is oppressive. I find the intelligent forms of atheism illuminating, sending me back regularly to reflect on my own position.

Philip O’Neill

Oxford, UK


Coalition restored Irish pride

Dermot Ryan’s letter ‘If ever we needed a cool, calm and righteous leader’ (Irish Independent, November 8, 2014) is, in my opinion, a classic of bias and delusion. I wonder which government Mr Ryan is referring to when he says publication of the letter is “a bombshell and a political disaster for the Government”. I am sure he means the last FF/Green government, which allowed this to happen, especially FF, which used pride itself on being a republican party but left the country in the grip of ECB and the IMF. Oh, the irony. Indeed, at that stage we had no option whatever the posturing, but to enter a bailout just to keep the lights on.

Maybe he might acknowledge the success we have had in growth, jobs and restoring our national pride at home and abroad under this administration. But I won’t hold my breath.

Brendan Cafferty

Ballina, Mayo

Irish Independent

Promoted articles


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: