Shelves

15 December 2014 Shelves

I still have arthritis in my left toe I am stricken with gout. But its getting better. A huge bill for the book shelves

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

Obituary:

Jon Stallworthy was a poet and literary scholar whose biography of Wilfred Owen shaped public understanding of the First World War

Jon Stallworthy: even at prep school he felt a calling to poetry

Jon Stallworthy: even at prep school he felt a calling to poetry Photo: Photoshot

Jon Stallworthy, who has died aged 79, was a poet and scholar whose academic and creative work was marked by an empathetic contemplation of war.

It was fitting that his last collection, published this year, is called War Poet. The book culminates in a lengthy poem, “Skyhorse”, about the White Horse of Uffingham as seen through the past millennium. The sequence is notable for the voices that echo through it – those of Anglo-Saxon poets, Yeats, Hardy and, most audibly, Wilfred Owen.

Stallworthy’s biography of Owen had a profound effect, not only on the war poet’s reputation, but also on public thinking about the Great War. It appeared in 1974, and took Owen’s theme of “the pity of war” to heart. The tone of the book is scholarly and restrained; its achievement is the careful presentation of letters and childhood recollections, particularly of Owen’s brother Harold. Stallworthy took the view that the war had been a fruitless waste of life, and in conversation would dismiss the opposing argument that it had been worth fighting.

None the less, in the Owen biography, plenty is left for the reader’s own judgment, and judge they have. Graham Greene immediately called it “one of the finest biographies of our time”, and the chapter about Owen’s treatment for shellshock at Craiglockhart, where he met Siegfried Sassoon, has had a lasting influence: events documented there would shape Stephen MacDonald’s play Not about Heroes and Pat Barker’s “Regeneration” trilogy.

The author went on to edit Owen’s poems, and those of other war poets, including Henry Reed, whose “The Naming of Parts” remains the best-known English poem to have emerged from the Second World War. Stallworthy regretted that the poems of that war were less known and admired than those of the First, and once admitted to an audience of sixth form students that he felt partly responsible. It is a tribute to his authority that he had a point.

As an academic, first at Cornell University and then at Oxford, he was able to champion a wide range of poetry and poets: with Peter France he translated the work of Alexander Blok and Boris Pasternak, and brought his deep and broad knowledge of 20th-century poetry to the invaluable anthologies. In particular, the Norton Anthology of Poetry (1996) is remarkable for its catholic and progressive outlook.

Stallworthy’s own poetry is distinguished by its quiet mastery of form, its unshowy allusion and its elegiac language. These enabled him to be at once calm and frank in the face of harsh realities. The most studied and admired example of this is not about war, but about his son Jonathan, who was born with Down’s Syndrome. The poem moves from the elation of the birth, with a reference to Ben Jonson’s verses on losing his son – “my best poem” – through the shock of the news – “This was my first death” – to a kind of reconciliation: “fathered by my son, / unkindly in a kind season / by love shattered and set free.”

Jon Howie Stallworthy was born in London on January 18 1935, the son of Sir John Stallworthy, who became professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at Oxford; his mother was Margaret Howie. The couple also had twin daughters in 1942. Jon grew up in Oxford, where he was educated at the Dragon School, from which he was nearly expelled for punching a sarcastic French teacher in the face. He then went to Rugby. Both his parents were New Zealanders, and his later poems make clear his keen awareness of the sacrifices made by the Anzac forces, including members of his family.

His own experience of military life came through National Service, for which he was placed with the Royal West African Frontier Force in 1955, before going up to university. He recalled the experience in a poem of 1968, which has the almost light-hearted indifference of hindsight, but also the suggestive music of Owen’s half-rhymes: “When quit /of us, they’ll come to blows, but now all’s quiet / on the Western Frontier.”

Even at prep school, he knew that poetry was his vocation. He read English and French at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he was an enthusiastic player of rugby – he narrowly missed a Blue. A significant mentor was Sir Maurice Bowra, the classicist and warden of Wadham. Bowra had fought at Passchendaele in 1917, and Stallworthy was aware of the traumas he had suffered there and at Cambrai. Along with Dame Helen Gardner, Bowra steered Stallworthy towards post-graduate work on Yeats, introducing the young poet to Yeats’s widow Georgiana. At Oxford, Stallworthy won the Newdigate Prize for poetry in 1958, having been runner-up the previous year.

On graduating, Stallworthy joined Oxford University Press in 1959. His work took him to Pakistan. He returned from there in 1962, and in 1970 went to South Africa. There especially, he was to face political difficulties, and The Oxford History of South Africa fell victim to the Justice Ministry’s censorship, which demanded that a chapter be cut for naming Communist activists. As a silent protest, the volume appeared with 52 blank pages.

His skills both as an editor and a manager led him to become deputy head of the Press’s academic division, which required a move back to Oxford. He had already spent 1970-71 there, as a fellow of All Souls, while he researched and wrote his biography of Owen. He produced other biographies, notably of Louis MacNeice, and his subjects became intimate presences to him. He wrote, of the time when he was courting his future wife and pursuing his post-graduate work: “My own life was still centred on Yeats (from Monday to Friday) and Jill (from Friday to Sunday).” Later he would write of Wilfred Owen: “I am not myself, nor are his / hands mine, though once I was at home /with them.”

He left the OUP on his appointment to Cornell University, where he subsequently became a professor and began his association with Norton’s publications. The necessity of those books for schools was a great help with the fees for his own children’s education. His eldest child’s Down’s Syndrome made the travel that had marked his earlier life hard to sustain, and the Stallworthy family settled in Oxford for good in 1986, where he became professor of English Literature and finally acting president of Wolfson College, for which role his managerial skills, a sense of perfectionism and his unfailing courtesy to everyone with whom he worked made him ideal. His enduring good looks were also quite an attribute.

He was moved to anger in 1998, when a crass decision, based on marketing, led to the closure of OUP’s poetry list. (The forthcoming fourth volume of a history of the Press will carry his last word on the subject.) Stallworthy had assembled an enviable list of widely-read poets, including Peter Porter, Fleur Adcock and Anthony Hecht. The poetry press Carcanet was to rescue many of these, and it was there that Stallworthy’s own work appeared, including his own collected poems, gathered in Rounding the Horn (1998).

A late poem of his is a reminder of how his work was enriched by his familiarity with other poets, both living and dead, and of how he should be remembered among them. He wrote towards the end of “Skyhorse”: “I found / myself – as the horse went to ground – / on my back in long grass, surrounded / by voices interwoven with the wind…”

Jon Stallworthy spent his retirement at the village of Old Marston, near Oxford. He married, in 1960, Gillian (Jill) Meredith (née Waldock), who died last year. He is survived by their three children, Jonathan, Nicolas and Pippa.

Jon Stallworthy, born January 18 1935, died November 19 2014

Guardian:

Environmental activists at the UN climate change conference, Cop 20, Lima, 4 December 2014.
Environmental activists at the UN climate change conference, Cop 20, Lima, 4 December 2014. Photograph: Mariana Bazo/Reuters

I applaud the Guardian for taking the lead in covering the UN’s climate change conference in Lima, and for tackling some of its inherent contradictions. For example, your article Lima climate talks on track for record carbon footprint (theguardian.com, 10 December) highlights the conference of the parties’ (Cop) surprisingly negative environmental impact this year.

Cop 20’s carbon footprint is interesting as a symbol of its one step forward, two steps back modus operandi. Sadly, failure to meet any real consensus at even this superficial level means that Cop 20’s carbon footprint may be its most significant contribution to the Earth’s atmosphere.

There is a danger in following the Guardian’s line of thinking, however, in that focusing too much on individual consumption mistakes means missing the rainforest for the trees. I spoke with a number of climate justice advocates at the people’s summit on climate change in Lima, across town from its more governmental counterpart. When I asked what individual Americans could do to help out, they did not say things like ride a bicycle to work more, or buy solar panels. Their message was consistent: organise, organise, organise.

The environmental crisis is too deep for us to address with anything less than system change. Moreover, it is too easy for a wily market logic to misappropriate efforts to buy greener products. Capitalist consumerism was built on an ethos of dog-eat-dog competition, and the villainisation of collective action. To address climate change at its roots, we need to look past the kind of individualistic thinking that got us in trouble in the first place.
Shawn Van Valkenburgh
Long Beach, CA, USA

However well-intentioned and based on real needs of our planet, Greenpeace’s action very close to the hummingbird at the Nazca lines (Greenpeace apologises over Nazca stunt, December), an extremely fragile archaeological site, was not only absurd but also showed contempt for Peru and the way this country protects its legacy.
Roberto Ugas
Lima, Peru

It is with real dismay that we received the news of proposed elimination of valuable legislation by the European commission to improve air quality and to boost recycling and wiser resource use in Europe and develop a circular economy (EU air quality and recycling goals face axe, 12 December). In their bid to play to the growing tide of Euro-scepticism across Europe, the EU’s president, Jean-Claude Juncker, and, vice-president, Frans Timmermans, fundamentally misjudge the mood and appetite of many in industry and civil society.

There are persuasive arguments that legislation to improve air quality and boost reuse and recycling not only save lives but create jobs and protect increasingly fragile resource supply chains.

We understand that European institutions may be feeling fragile and that reform from within is necessary, but this response from the commission picks on the wrong legislation at the wrong time. It is a short-sighted and miserable decision that risks slowing green growth, ensuring many more premature deaths from respiratory illnesses, and increases resource supply risks for European manufacturers. Please think again.
Ray Georgeson
Chief executive, Resource Association

As stated in last week’s report by the environmental audit committee (8 December), air pollution has become a public health crisis. It is therefore vital that the UK calls for tough new limits on air pollution at EU level. Many of the pollutants that end up in the air we breathe originate from the continent. We need stricter, clearer national limits in order for all European governments to take coordinated action that will curb pollution and clean up Europe’s air.

The UK must use its influence to strengthen EU air quality targets, not weaken them, so that we can tackle the sources of pollution both at home and abroad.
Catherine Bearder MEP (Liberal Democrat), Seb Dance MEP (Labour), Julie Girling MEP (Conservative)

European commission plans to scrap programmes to clean up our air and tackle waste are deeply disturbing.

Protecting the health of its citizens and safeguarding our precious resources should be at the heart of EU policy-making. These are powerful economic moves, as well as environmental and social ones. Sacrificing these aims to benefit a few powerful, unenlightened business interests would be shameful.

Friends of the Earth has given strong support to the EU in the past because of the critical role European legislation has played in defending our planet and well-being. But that could change if the EU stops championing the environment and views its protection as a barrier to economic development.
Andy Atkins
Executive director, Friends of the Earth

It’s no wonder so many people are disillusioned with politics (Dirty secrets: the UK hides its role, 13 December). This year the home affairs select committee said the intelligence and security committee was not fit for purpose. The committee called for a radical reform of the oversight of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ (we would add the NSA too), arguing that the system is so ineffective it is undermining the credibility of the intelligence agencies and parliament itself. And yet it is the ISC which replaced Peter Gibson, who had started to ask serious questions about the behaviour of the intelligence services.

Malcolm Rifkind, who chairs the ISC, cannot by any figment of the imagination be deemed independent, nor is his committee. Why is this discredited committee allowed anywhere near an investigation into the spy agencies and torture? Nick Clegg says he wants to know the truth about torture. What is desperately needed is the appointment of a respected and credible panel of independent people to seriously investigate what GCHQ has been up to while hiding behind the NSA cloak of subterfuge. And by the way, another radome (“golfball”) is planned at the huge US base at NSA/NRO Menwith Hill. The ISC says it knows everything that goes on there. More deceit and manipulation of the truth.
Lindis Percy
Joint coordinator, Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases (CAAB)

• The report on CIA torture makes a number of references to doctors advising personnel. Given that some of the “interrogations” read more like sadist’s wish-fulfilment, these doctors were actually colluding in the brutal treatment and, in the case of Gul Rahman, killing of prisoners. What did they themselves think they were doing? Are they still practising medicine somewhere?
Joseph Oldaker
Nuneaton, Warwickshire

 

Glass head full of pills
‘Big Pharma spends millions assuring us we are all very sick and in need of constant drugging’ – Naomi Wallace. Photograph: Prisma Bildagentur AG/Alamy

Fay Schopen (Opinion, 12 December) cheerleads what she considers the American ease of pill-popping. Even a casual glance at the medicating patterns in my country reveal that the poor, and people of colour, especially children, are those that are prescribed the most pills. And this is not because they have disorders. Working-class kids who “talk back” or resist the hopelessness of a brutal capitalism that has disenfranchised them are considered psychotic. Social disorder is now being treated as a psychiatric disorder. And the drug companies are making billions.

While each year drug companies launch new mental disorders with the kind of fearmongering that once belonged only to weapons manufacturers, what we need are studied sceptics who can talk back to Big Pharma.

In the meantime: about to lose your job? Might find it upsetting if you lose your home? Take a pill. You can get an antidepressant prescription in 13 minutes in most doctor’s offices in the US. Big Pharma spends millions assuring us we are all very sick and in need of constant drugging. I expect that soon there will be a disease called Ferguson disorder. When young black men are heartbroken and angry at their lack of civil freedoms, instead of taking to the streets, they can sit back and take a pill.
Naomi Wallace
(Playwright, screenwriter), Otterburn, North Yorkshire

As a 74-year-old who doesn’t (currently) have to take any medication and who, apart from a few courses of antibiotics never has, I count myself fortunate and in no way morally, or any other way, superior to those who do. Fay Schopen is right, it is irrational and denigrating to sneer at anyone needing medication for chronic illness.

One part of her article worried me, however: the suggestion that Tamoxifen was not an option for the treatment of her mother in the 1980s. Tamoxifen has been prescribed since the 1970s and only if the cancer was oestrogen insensitive should it not have been the first-line drug treatment.

Americans may rattle, but in Japan, where doctors not only prescribe but dispense, they rattle louder.
Ian Skidmore
Welwyn, Hertfordshire

Congratulations to Alan Rusbridger on his time as editor and I wish him well in his new role (Report, 11 December). I can’t think of a better place to commend his work than in the letters page of Britain’s finest newspaper, which he has steered through difficult times. I still look forward to reading the paper as much today as I did in 1980.
Gary Woolley
Cambridge

• After his £300k donation to Ukip (Report, 13 December), will Richard Desmond stop broadcasting images of breasts on his Red Hot TV channel in deference to Nigel Farage’s embarrassment at them being used openly in Claridges for the purpose they are intended?
Eric Goodyer
Berwick

• Surely the Roger Bird story (Letters, 10 December) was nominative determinism.
John Petrie
Leeds

'Weather Bomb' hits Northern Ireland
A horse on Divis Mountain caught in the ‘weather bomb’ that hit Northern Ireland on 10 December 2014. Photograph: Joe Lord/Corbis

During the 2003 heatwave, temperatures in southern Britain soared into the upper 30s centigrade. Curiously, media reporting suddenly switched to the old fahrenheit scale. Why? The answer was ludicrously simple. The temperature was about to hit a record 100F, which reporters of the day seemed to think much more newsworthy than a “balmy” 37.8C. Last week we experienced another meteorological event that engendered hysteria in the media. So it was that the term “weather bomb” (technically explosive cyclogenesis) entered our psyche (Report, 11 December). With the weather bomb came high winds and waves, the latter predicted, in the BBC radio report I caught, to reach 40 feet. That’s right, 40 feet – we’re back with imperial measurements – 12.2-metre waves don’t sound large enough to generate the necessary public hysteria.

So might our media be missing a few tricks when “bigging up” meteorological events? Simply changing centigrade to fahrenheit overlooks the Kelvin scale: using this they could report perfectly normal average summer temperatures in the UK of nearly 290K. For the weather bomb, winds were predicted up to 80mph; in kilometres per hour, that would be a scary 130kph. And why not millimetres for waves? The idea of 12,200mm waves will definitely get coastal dwellers heading for the hills.
Professor Richard Evershed
University of Bristol

• Up here in north Donegal, after two days of explosive cyclogenesis – force 10 winds, driving sleet, coastal waves like geysers spraying the land with salt scum – followed by snow, we don’t have any bugs, bees, flowering plants or even green shoots. We do have resilient survivors, wee birds, corvids, rodents, little horned sheep and local people who are well used to the conditions. It’s winter and it’s wonderful.
Maureen Surgente
Fanad, Donegal, Ireland

 

Independent:

Your downbeat front-page article is entitled, “New era of cheap oil ‘will destroy green revolution” (13 December). On the contrary, the green revolution is an unstoppable process. Here are two business reasons why.

The barrier to entry for new business people is low compared to starting a fossil-fuel energy business. It is so low that a one-man band could get one off the ground, installing solar panels or electric car charging points for example. No micro-business could decide to build a coal power station.

Second, long-term business security. Who, starting life as a new business person, in their right mind, would go for selling risky, limited fossil-fuel energy over predictable, unlimited renewable energy?

The fact is, there is an incredible amount of money to be made in renewables. The end of fossil-fuelled energy is a problem for the old generation of business owners.

A better title would have been “New era of cheap oil will temporarily slow the green revolution”.

Filipe McManus

Martlesham Heath, Suffolk

 

The cost of energy – fossil or renewable – is, currently, a function of the cost of production, distribution, sale and consumer demand. However, this does not reflect the full economic cost of energy.

Climate change is being driven by rising carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels. The costs from climate change come in several forms: first, from damage to buildings and infrastructure from more powerful and more frequent freak weather events; second, injury and loss of life in those events; third, lost economic production as a result of these two factors; fourth and finally, measures taken to ameliorate freak weather events, such as enhanced flood defences.

If those costs were reflected in the cost of energy, then fossil fuels would not be as cheap as they appear to be, and the economic case for renewable energy would be strong.

Barry Richards

Cardiff

 

The threat to progress on climate change as the price of oil falls could be partially offset by requiring consumers to reduce carbon dioxide emissions through carbon capture and storage technology, paid for by the consumers.

In the case of aviation, which plays a vital role in the modern world, research into alternative fuels (such as liquified methane or liquid hydrogen) and development of tanks to contain them and engines to burn them could be paid for by levies on the price of passenger tickets and freight costs.

Part of the difficulty with finding out the amount of carbon dioxide released by energy production is that it is a colourless, odourless gas, undetectable by human senses. If it were a pungent green gas or an oily purple liquid, no doubt capture technologies would have been introduced long ago.

Julien Evans

Chesham, Buckinghamshire

 

Labour ignores new Scottish democracy

In electing Jim Murphy MP as its leader, Scottish Labour proves it has learned nothing from the left-wing, grassroots movements that propelled the independence vote in Scotland from 26 per cent to 45 per cent in just two years.

Murphy, a long-time Blair protégé, is the epitome of what SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon calls a “red Tory”. His mantra throughout the Scottish Labour leadership contest was that, like any “one nation” Tory, he wanted to represent “the poor and the prosperous”.

A supporter of the invasion of Iraq, Murphy is in favour of nuclear weapons, including the moral and economic obscenity of replacing Trident.

Misguided Labour Party members might consider Murphy “electable” by the old rules of media-obsessed, spin-doctored politics, but, following the carnival of democracy that was the pro-independence referendum campaign, Scotland is a nation changed utterly.

Mark Brown

Glasgow

 

Chapter 2 paragraph 20 of the Smith Commission report refers to “the sovereign right of the people of Scotland to determine the form of government best suited to their needs, as expressed in the referendum on 18 September 2014”. How was this “expressed” in a referendum where the question was “Should Scotland be an independent country?” and the answer was “No”?

Adam More

Edinburgh

 

When the Scots can set themselves lower income tax and higher welfare payments, will the rest of us have to make up the difference – and suffer higher income tax and lower welfare payments as a result? This bribe to the Scots can only cause resentment in the rest of the UK, particularly in the less affluent regions.

Marilyn Mason

Kingston upon Thames Surrey

 

No freebies for public servants

Janet Street-Porter criticises the Financial Conduct Authority for spending public money on a Christmas party (13 December).

I have worked for the public sector since I was 18 years old, except for four years working for a voluntary organisation. I have never been offered or attended a Christmas celebration funded by anyone except myself.

I started as a student nurse, worked as a nurse and then a health visitor for my first 16 years. Then I worked for a charity and a council for the last 15 years. My colleagues and I have never had any extra benefit and none of us has expected it. What we have done is worked Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. I am now a middle manager in the council and we arrange a meal for all staff which they pay for themselves.

So I do not recognise the elite group of public sector staff you refer to, but I can assure you they are in the minority. Please can you represent the majority of public sector staff in the future, as we are having a hard enough time with the views of the public?

Julia Holley

Bath

 

James Watson’s comments on race

Dr John Cameron (letter, 11 December) suggests that Charlotte Hunt-Grubbe “did for” James Watson, in an act of betrayal against her former teacher, by reporting his comments on race and intelligence.

It is unnecessary and vicious to name her in this way, and Dr Cameron has no way of knowing the details of the interview. Miss Hunt-Grubbe is a professional and will not defend herself against this slur. I, an acquaintance of hers, have no such compunction.

She remains mortified that she was unable to stop James Watson persisting in such comments, but it is not part of a journalist’s professional duty only to report what one likes, no matter on whom. Nor, for that matter, can a scientist only record the observations that please them. If he didn’t want his words reported, he shouldn’t have said them to a journalist on the record.

Alasdair Matthews

Tunbridge Wells, Kent

 

Britain can uphold human rights

Graham Bog takes a swipe at “the cacophony of Tory cries for our withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights” (letter, 12 December). Why doesn’t he have a go at Australia, Canada and New Zealand while he’s at it? None of them is a full signatory to the ECHR but each has a robust legal system.

We have a Supreme Court in the UK. Mr Bog needs  to explain why he doesn’t trust it.

D Stewart

London N2

 

Stop making Ed Miliband look weird

Your leading article of 12 December tells us that “Miliband is right to point out the Coalition’s failures on borrowing. But will the public buy his alternative plan?” If your paper continues to publish photos like the one on page 18 of the same issue, which makes him look very weird, it seems unlikely that they will.

I have met Ed Miliband on a number of occasions and I can assure your readers that he is an intelligent and nice-looking man. Why would a paper that is “independent” wish to keep presenting him in the most unflattering way. It is quite easy to take a foolish-looking photo of anyone, so why pick on Ed? I haven’t noticed you publishing photos of Cameron looking absurd.

Jill Osman

Hebden Bridge  West Yorkshire

 

Harassment at abortion clinics

I was disappointed to read the three leading letters on Thursday dismissing the idea of buffer zones around abortion clinics. If a patient feels harassed and intimidated by the images held up by the protesters then surely it is harassment.

How would your correspondents feel if on entering a hospital for a legal procedure they had to walk past images of bloody scalpels, chests cut open, cancers being removed? No medical procedure looks pleasant, and if patients want to see pictures of what they are about to undergo, they will find them for themselves.

Angela Elliott

Hundleby, Lincolnshire

Times:

Sir, In his letter (Dec 12) about public or private provision in the NHS, Mr CNA Williams criticises David Aaronovitch (Opinion, Dec 11) for failing to recognise the difference between these two organisational systems. In effect the letter advocates a very old-fashioned socialist doctrine that “public is good and private bad”. Perhaps the writer inadvertently demolishes their own argument by failing to mention either the quality of outcomes or cost-effectiveness. He also reiterates the frequently expressed left-wing view that the making of profit must be bad. I should have thought that the idea that the state should do nearly everything for the “benefit of all” had been tested to destruction in various countries.

Surely most people wish to have the best and most timely diagnosis and treatment, irrespective of the involvement of public and private sectors. Without some element of competition on services, there cannot be a strong drive for innovation and improvement. The global pharmaceutical industry has over the past 50 years or so provided numerous improved treatments geared to the needs of patients. Without making some profits, such vital developments would not have been financed. State-controlled medical research and development could not have matched this. The need to be financially viable is a great spur to improvement and better service. A steady flow of funds from the taxpayer is not always as reliable a stimulant and can lead to provider interests taking precedence over those of service users.
John S Burton
Cheltenham, Glos

Sir, Your correspondentdisplays Orwellian logic. If one accepts his argument, a first-class private department store providing quality goods to its customers for profit is inferior to a second-class state store (of a kind once familiar behind the Iron Curtain) providing the public with shoddy goods. The truth is that a private enterprise can only go on making a profit if it pleases not only its shareholders but its customers — the public — and it can only do this by providing quality goods or services. Public monopoly services by contrast often exist primarily to serve the interests of their staff.
Robert Keys
Danbury, Essex

Sir, Of course just profiteering is “bad” (letter, Dec 12). But worse is accepting public ownership without fiscal restraint — otherwise raising taxes simply to pay doctors and nurses wages equivalent to those of footballers would qualify in Williams’s simplistic dichotomy as a laudable “public investment”. Privatisation was partly conceived to stop trade union leaders such as Arthur Scargill and Mick McGahey from holding the Treasury to ransom.
Phillip Hodson
Tetbury, Glos

Sir, “Profit”, whether public or private, is the recognised reward for taking risk, which all investment and decision-making involves. Without profit, there would be no incentive for entrepreneurs to take risk and translate creative ideas into economic growth. To suggest that public investment is inherently good simply because it is “public”, and that private profit is inherently bad because it is “private”, is to indulge in the outdated language of class war and pretend that we live in an altruistic wonderland.
Bernard Kingston
Biddenden, Kent

Sir, Professor Hicks, in his letter (Dec 5) commenting on our research findings, suggests that the skeleton found in Leicester is not that of Richard III. He states that “there are lots of candidates” yet seems unable to specify one who ticks all the boxes (buried in the choir of Greyfrairs, battle injuries, aged mid-30s, same mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), scoliosis, etc). He overlooks the fact that the publication presents a detailed analysis of Richard’s maternal-line relatives across seven generations in order to account for others sharing the same mtDNA type through known relation — and that this mtDNA type is exceedingly rare and therefore highly unlikely to have shown a match by chance.

Hicks also claims that we “presumed the bones to be those of Richard and sought only supporting evidence”. A cursory reading of the paper and an examination of our statistical analyses makes it abundantly clear that the opposite is true. We considered all relevant lines of evidence and made every effort to weight the analysis against the remains being those of Richard III, yet still produce a highly conservative probability of 99.9994 per cent in favour. Lastly, Hicks refers to “wild accusations of bastardy”. Nowhere do we make any such accusations.
T King
, University of Leicester
MG Thomas
, UCL
K Schürer
, University of Leicester

Sir, It was disappointing to read Sir Peter Lampl’s remarks in your report (“Fifth of pupils failed primary tests”, Dec 12). Comments such as “narrowing the gap” from the head of the prestigious Sutton Trust tend only to trivialise the issue of measurement of effective learning.

This faux-measurement term and its derogatory companion, “floor standards”, serve only to contribute to the socially divisive labelling of certain pupils as a deficit mass. It increases, rather than decreases, the “learnt helplessness” and disempowerment of the teaching profession who, deprived of the right to treat pupils as individuals, resort to coaching to appease external inspectors through short-term increases in test scores.
Professor Bill Boyle

(Former chairman of educational assessment, University of Manchester) Cotebrook, Cheshire

Sir, I see that American TV has banned the codpiece (report, Dec 12). I have often thought that the only thing left to re-introduce in male fashion is the codpiece. Having turned 60, I look back and have enjoyed wearing turn-ups, bell-bottoms, shorts, skinny jeans, high crotch, low crotch — and had the discomfort of looking at low waistbands showing off underwear. I expect a codpiece would be quite comfortable. If it’s banned from American TV screens, does that mean it will never be re-adopted?
Richard Jeffs

London NW1

Sir, As a 19-year old girl in the Sixties working for a theatrical costumier, one of my duties was to make and decorate codpieces. On one occasion I was asked to fit one, in order to position it correctly on to tights that the actor was wearing. Fortunately my hand was steady. The actor was Charlton Heston.
Tricia Lewin

Newbury, Berkshire

Sir, The problem in providing a lavatory (Dec 12, and letter, Dec 13) in the Chantry of St Mary the Virgin in Wakefield lies in its being built on a small island in the middle of the River Calder as a part of the medieval bridge. Access to mains drainage is out of the question. We thought to have resolved the problem by installing a composting loo, but this is reliant on a mechanism that has broken down. Last week we had a delightful evening of Christmas music provided in part by 11 junior school girls who came to rehearse 90 minutes before the start time. It was a huge relief to find that the proprietor of a business at the end of the bridge was prepared to offer his staff lavatory. At 6.30pm we saw a crocodile of our performers walking purposefully along the bridge in high wind and rain to the welcome facility. The concert was good too.
Kate Taylor

Chairwoman, the Friends of Wakefield Chantry Chapel

Sir, There is a cheaper and better way of solving this problem. Shorter services.
The Very Rev Trevor Beeson

Dean Emeritus of Winchester
Romsey, Hampshire

Telegraph:

What makes a good education; aggressive dogs; hopes for a naval base in Bahrain; America in uproar; Santa vs Father Christmas; and boys will be girls

Cadets at an open day

Cadets at an army open day Photo: Jan Knapik

SIR – The Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan’s belief that ex-soldiers can help school children learn “character” and “determination” is woefully misguided. Children develop according to a huge variety of influences, such as religious groups, peers, parents, teachers, youth clubs and sporting activities.

Those living in poor housing with unemployed parents face a lot of challenges in simply keeping safe, eating enough and getting to school ready to try to learn. Sending in the Army to deal with entrenched, structural disadvantages is at best a token gimmick and at worst an insult to Army veterans, who are themselves being neglected by the Government after having served their country.

Steven Walker
Walton-on-the-Naze, Essex

SIR – My school is one of the founding members of Round Square – a network of schools inspired by the ideals of the educationalist Kurt Hahn, who was involved in the creation of the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme. This organisation has been focused on formation of character for more than 50 years, but, while we have tremendous respect for the military, we run no Combined Cadet Force course and do not require help from ex-soldiers.

Students form a well-rounded character when their school’s ethos promotes charitable service, adventure, care for the environment, an international perspective, democracy and leadership.

The problems the Government wishes to tackle are born of years of mismanagement. A generation of teachers has been raised in fear of league table positions, exam results and paperwork. Children are complex and infinitely capable and they need to be nurtured so that they can become resilient, balanced, happy contributors to society. We do not need to buy in a soldier to achieve this; we just need to remember that education is not all about A*s.

Corydon Lowde
Headmaster, Box Hill School Mickleham, Surrey

SIR – First Tristram Hunt, the shadow education secretary, attacked public schools for not doing enough to help state schools, and threatened to remove their charitable status. Now he is agreeing with Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, that schools need to instil more “grit” in children.

Mr Hunt would do well to consider that many pupils attend private schools through the great sacrifices and “grit” of their parents. While a desire to help the state sector is admirable, this is not what they are paying the schools to do.

Amanda Wood
Brightwell Baldwin, Oxfordshire

SIR – Once again Ofsted has released a damning report on the quality of leadership and education in many of our secondary schools.

Since Ofsted was set up more than 20 years ago with the remit to improve the quality of the education given to our children, this report in fact reflects its own dismal failure to deliver.

Brian Farmer
Chelmsford, Essex

SIR – The latest Ofsted report states that thousands of bright pupils are regressing in secondary schools because of “issues in the teaching of the most able pupils” and “acceptance” of indiscipline.

This confirms what many of us involved in education during the Seventies thought might happen. With the closure of grammar schools, in many industrial regions where a lot of families had no tradition of entering higher education, the brightest would join the rest and receive a secondary modern education.

The consequence has been that fewer students from the state system in such regions end up studying rigorous academic subjects at Russell Group universities.

Dr Malcolm Greenhalgh
Lowton, Lancashire

Happy dogs are not aggressive dogs

SIR – Dr Bruce Fogle attempts to soften the reality that a dog, out of its owner’s control, attacked a horse. If the target of the dog’s attack had been a child playing with a ball, would that have been acceptable dog behaviour?

As an expert in animal behaviour, I know that contented dogs – which are exercised, mentally as well as physically, trained and properly socialised – are not naturally aggressive.

Dr David Sands

Chorley, Lancashire

SIR – Dr Fogle’s reasoning is more out of control than Elena Butterfield’s Staffordshire terrier if he really does not understand why she fell foul of the Dangerous Dogs Act.

Any dog, if large enough, can be dangerous. Staffies are lovely, affectionate dogs, but, in common with other bull breeds, they are not normally the brightest, and some can be difficult to train. They have an enormously high power-to-weight ratio, and have been bred for tenacity. They certainly should not be allowed to run loose in a public place out of range of their owner’s voice.

John Duff
Braemar, Aberdeenshire

SIR – Dr Fogle advises riders to turn their horses to face an “excited” dog and chase it. I am always wary when I meet loose dogs while out riding. A dog persistently snapping around a horse’s heels can very quickly lead to the horse bucking or bolting, potentially with tragic consequences.

When walking a dog in a public place the onus is on the owner to keep a lookout for prospective hazards and take action to prevent them turning into dangerous situations.

Rev Sandra Sykes
Chelmsford, Essex

SIR – We live overlooking a stretch of the river Tweed, where an incident occurred in the 18th century which resulted in a landmark court ruling.

The Earl of Home, when fishing for salmon, would be accompanied by his Newfoundland dog, which could apparently catch 20 fish in a single morning. The neighbouring landowner was so incensed that he took the dog to court for illegally depleting salmon stocks.

The Scottish Court of Sessions was convened to hear the case of “The Earl of Tankerville versus a Dog, the property of the Earl of Home”. Judgment was given in favour of the dog, it being decided that it had not acted through malicious criminal intent but by natural instinct.

Canon Alan Hughes
Wark, Northumberland

Sinking hopes of a naval base in Bahrain

SIR – The proposed naval base in Bahrain will be a costly exercise in a time of financial constraint.

One of the prime justifications for the two new Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers was the ability to provide offensive air support globally, without having to rely on land bases that might be subject to restrictions by host nations. We are now told that a maritime base in Bahrain is required to support these and other Royal Navy ships operating in the Gulf, thus negating the original justification of the aircraft carriers.

If the past 25 years of conflict in the Middle East is a precedent, it is difficult to justify expensive naval bases in the area. A cheaper airbase could be easily justified.

Lt Col Paul d’Apice (retd)
Dawlish, Devon

SIR – In the Seventies, Sir Anthony Eden said to me: “I hope the British people will come to realise that I made the right decision to invade Suez.”

Whether right or wrong, it now seems we will again have a presence to the east of Suez, which Harold Wilson withdrew in 1968, so Sir Anthony may yet be proved correct.

The difference between then and now is that today we seek cooperation, not confrontation, with the Middle East.

Vin Harrop
Billericay, Essex

Justifying torture

SIR – Following the publication of the report on interrogation by the CIA, the philosophical problem of means and ends has had a good airing, with many talking about “crimes” and the CIA talking about “results”.

I would be very interested to know the extent of the role played by the British Government in these affairs.

Dr William Bedford
Purton Stoke, Wiltshire

SIR – We now have another contender for most obscene political euphemism, to compete with old favourites such as “collateral damage” and “extraordinary rendition” – “enhanced interrogation techniques”.

Nigel Henson
Winkfield, Ascot

Peaceful protest

SIR – America takes pride in allowing its citizens the right to assemble and protest peacefully.

Those who turned to violence recently, when protesting against grand jury decisions in relation to lethal force by some police officers, instantly devalued their own message.

Jeff Swanson
Everett, Washington, United States

Branded abuse

SIR – Is Russell Brand hard of hearing? Whatever he was asked on this week’s Question Time, he seemed to hear: “Would you like to shout general abuse at Nigel Farage, mate?”

Martin Burgess
Beckenham, Kent

Butterfly comeback

SIR – I can confirm the “return of the long-lost butterflies”.

We saw Clouded Yellow in the sand dunes at Gwithian, Cornwall, on November 13. Back in Wiltshire we had a Brimstone fly through the garden early in November, and about six Red Admirals feeding on fermenting grapes until the end of the month. They left because the Blackbirds and Blackcaps have cleared the grapes.

Stephen Lawrence
Bratton, Wiltshire

Paddington Scare

SIR – I am glad your film critic enjoyed Paddington and came out of the cinema laughing.

My two grandchildren, aged seven and five years, did not – they were frightened by the “nasty lady” (Nicole Kidman). Another family had to take their seven-year-old son out of the cinema.

Is Paddington, which I took to be a children’s film, in fact a film for middle-aged men?

Sue Hare
Billericay, Essex

Political jungle

SIR – A new reality television show is about to be launched. In I’m a Conservative… Get Me Out of Here!, contestants are held in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats and required to undertake unpalatable tasks, such as swallowing niggling criticism from Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander. The show is scheduled to run until May 2015.

Frank Tomlin
Billericay, Essex

Boys will be girls

SIR – Pauline Churcher is not the only one to have had a case of mistaken identity. My husband Clive, on passing his 11-plus exam, received a letter that read: “ We have pleasure in confirming a place for Olive at the Grammar School. She must report with the requisite uniform of navy blue blazer and badge, navy blue gym slip and stockings, white blouse, navy blue knickers and a hockey stick”.

I wonder what the school would now make of Olive’s pot belly and bald head.

Rev Margaret Hadfield
Lutterworth, Leicestershire

Santa is more authentic than our Father Christmas

Photo: Alamy

SIR – Annie Pierce refers to Santa as an “American usurper”.

I would argue that Santa has the edge on Father Christmas. The latter has no connection with Christianity; the former was once the genuine Christian St Nicholas.

Rev Philip Foster
Hemingford Abbots, Huntingdonshire

SIR – This year our local primary school nativity play was called A Midwife Crisis. The familiar nativity story received a modern twist, with a midwife abandoning her satnav’s advice and following a star to the baby Jesus. As she cradled him in her arms, she said: “It seems I need Jesus more than He needs me.”

This performance, although not traditional, was both poignant and humbling.

Ruth Beavington
Ryarsh, Kent

SIR – One festive offering I always await with dread is the annual swipe at the Christmas newsletter that many of us enclose with our Christmas cards.

Not all of us spend our year locked into social media sites, nor do we all have friends and family in close proximity. We enjoy hearing the news from afar and feel a summary of our own activities keeps the channels open with people whom we value but see rarely.

I say bring on the dog’s health, the grandchildren’s activities, the holidays and hobbies – and humbug to the cynics.

Barry Carter
Oxford

Irish Times:

‘Hooded men’, torture and human rights

Sir, – Many Irish observers may not be aware that, in his infamous “torture memo” of August 1st, 2002, Jay Bybee, assistant attorney general in the administration of US president George W Bush, cited the case of Ireland vs the UK before the European Commission and subsequently the European Court of Human Rights in the 1970s as the principal example under international law to justify his contention that the use of sensory deprivation techniques (which dominate the US Senate report on US interrogation abuses since 9/11) did not amount to “torture”.

The governments of Jack Lynch and Liam Cosgrave in the early 1970s took the most important intergovernmental case on human rights in modern times against the UK government, citing hundreds of instances of inhuman treatment and torture against detainees in Northern Ireland and specifically alleging torture in the use of five “sensory deprivation” techniques (prolonged wall standing, hooding, subjection to noise, sleep deprivation and deprivation of food and drink) against a number of men.

The case was pursued over several years before the European Commission on Human Rights in Strasbourg and elsewhere with admirable “tripartisanship” and without the slightest jingoism between Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour leaders in government, an example of the Irish State at its best. The evidence was compiled from hundreds of sources in Northern Ireland, the most prominent being Fr Denis Faul, by officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs (I was one at the time). Several Irish counsel, junior and senior (Mr Justice Murray of the Supreme Court is the last active practitioner from that team) led by attorneys general Condon and Costello, confronted the most formidable names of the English Bar, including several of their attorneys general. Mr Lynch and Mr Cosgrave and their ministers and attorneys general resisted relentless pressure from their British opposite numbers, up to and including during the Sunningdale Conference, to drop the case. In 1976 the European Commission for Human Rights found that the use of the five techniques amounted to torture.

The European Court of Human Rights, the superior instance, changed that decision in 1978, grotesquely finding that the use of the five techniques “used in combination for a long period fall into the category of inhuman treatment, but not torture”. This was the decision relied upon by Mr Bybee in 2002 to justify many of the horrors now disclosed by the US Senate.

The initiative of the Minister for Foreign Affairs Charles Flanagan to try to have this case reopened in Strasbourg is important obviously for the survivors among the “hooded men” and for the families of all of them. It is also crucial for the world, including for the UK, whose prime minister has justly condemned the disclosures in the US Senate report. – Yours, etc,

MICHAEL LILLIS,

Dublin 6.

Sir, – The decision to proceed with a minimum unit pricing (MUP) policy for alcohol in Northern Ireland reflects the increasing conviction of policymakers of the effectiveness of price in the fight against alcohol harm. The challenge to Scotland’s bid to introduce an MUP of 50 pence remains tied up in the European courts, but there is confidence that this challenge by the drinks industry will be overcome.

The consequences of alcohol harm in Ireland are visible to many and catastrophic. The death rate from liver cirrhosis has doubled in both men and women in Ireland in the last 20 years, reflecting the doubling of per capita intake of Ireland in Ireland in the last 50 years. MUP, which establishes a floor price below which alcohol cannot be sold, has proven to have had significant positive and rapid benefits on health and crime in Canada, where MUP has already been introduced. The Northern Irish Department of Health estimates that introduction of MUP there could save 63 lives a year; in the Republic the figure for lives saved would be much higher.

Those who argue against MUP suggest that moderate drinkers would be penalised. This is quite simply not the case. MUP will in fact have the greatest impact on harmful and hazardous drinkers. A recent UK study of patients with liver disease demonstrated that the impact of a minimum unit price of 50 pence per unit on spending on alcohol would be 200 times higher for patients with liver disease who were drinking at harmful levels than for low-risk drinkers. If we take a MUP price of 60 cent in the Republic of Ireland, this would not change the price anyone pays for a drink in a pub or restaurant, as these, for the most part, already sell at well above that MUP. A bottle of wine costing €8 at present, or a 700ml bottle of spirits at €14, would still cost the same. What would change is the price of the cheapest and strongest wine, cider and beer, mainly or completely in the supermarket and off-license sector. There is also strong public support for MUP in the Republic of Ireland. In a survey from 2012, almost 58 per cent of respondents were in favour of establishment of a floor price below which alcohol could not be sold. In summary, there is overwhelming evidence for the benefits and targeting of a MUP for alcohol, there is a high level of public support, and now we see a commitment to and steps to implement it in Northern Ireland. The time is now right for turning off the tap on strong cheap alcohol in the Republic of Ireland. – Yours, etc,

Prof FRANK MURRAY,

President,

Royal College of Physicians

of Ireland,

Frederick House,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – The OECD has just released the 2014 version of its annual Health at a Glance document. It states that the average Irish doctor only provided 1,224 clinical consultations annually. This equates to between five and six consultations daily, clearly not reflecting reality. That data comes from the 2010 National Quarterly Household Health Survey performed by the Central Statistics Office.

In 2013 we published in the Irish Medical Journal the results of an audit of the practice records of 20,700 adult patients spread over the country and found that the average patient attends their GP 5.2 times a year.

This is slightly less than the UK consultation rate. It equates to each wholetime equivalent GP providing 33 consultations a day or a sum total of over 460,000 consultations in general practice per week. And that figure does not include any consultations with hospital doctors.

The problem with the 2010 CSO survey is that it demands recollection of the number of times during the past 12 months a person had consulted a general practitioner or had visited a hospital specialist as an outpatient, which is subject to a massive degradation of recollection.

Since 2006 most European countries have used four-week recollection in their national health surveys but our national surveys are based on 12-month recollection, a significant difference which probably explains the serious discrepancy.

We would implore the health planners to examine the data they collect, the method of collection and the potential outcomes of misrepresenting the true nature and productivity of both general practice and hospital activity, so that we can plan accurate delivery of care, before all our doctors have left these shores. – Yours, etc,

Dr WILLIAM BEHAN,

Walkinstown,

Dublin 12;

Dr DAVID MOLONY,

Mallow,

Sir, – The use of online technology to ease queues at the Garda National Immigration Bureau on Dublin’s Burgh Quay will be welcomed by those forced to stand in line and hard-pressed staff at the country’s busiest public office (“Immigration service to introduce online appointment system for visas in 2015”, December 16th).

While the use of online appointments for re-entry visas may help ease the immediate issue, it will do little to address the wider ones which created the backlog. The policy of attempting to funnel 130,000 people a year through a single office is not working. At the Immigrant Council of Ireland we have been campaigning for greater use of new technology, more Garda offices and reforms similar to those which eased backlogs at the passport office. In the new year we will also continue to seek the introduction of a modern, clear and efficient immigration system.

Red tape must be replaced with easy to understand rules and guidelines, as well as an independent appeals mechanism for those who want visa decisions reviewed. The fight for immigration reform has been going on now for well over a decade; it is time for our politicians to take a leaf from US president Barack Obama’s book and show leadership on this important issue in 2015. – Yours, etc,

DENISE CHARLTON,

Chief Executive,

Immigrant Council

of Ireland,

Andrew Street, Dublin 2.

Sir, – The Defence Forces have a total of 442 soldiers serving overseas in 14 different missions with the UN, EU, OSCE and Nato. This amounts to a scattergun approach and is exposing Irish soldiers to undue risks in some inappropriate missions.

Missions such as the Nato force in Afghanistan are arguably making war not peace, and the dangers to Irish soldiers in Kabul will be significantly increased with the withdrawal of most other foreign troops.

Ireland should focus on peacekeeping in serious conflicts such as the Congo and Darfur in which there is an urgent need for high-quality UN peacekeepers, and avoid scattering our soldiers in small packets around the globe.

The vast majority of the Irish people want Ireland to pursue a policy of positive neutrality, that includes sending Irish soldiers to promote international peace and sustainable development, and do not support the resource wars being pursued by the US and NATO, under the guise of humanitarian intervention. Our Irish values are not Nato’s values. The peoples of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, have not enjoyed peace, or prosperity or humanitarian results from the wars inflicted on them.

Minister for Defence Simon Coveney stated in the Dáil on November 13th that he is reviewing the presence of seven Irish soldiers serving in Afghanistan with Nato. It is vital that these soldiers should not be replaced when their mission ends on December 31st. They should never have been in Afghanistan supporting foreign military occupation. It is vital to ensure that our soldiers are only exposed to justifiable risks and only on genuine UN peace missions. – Yours, etc,

EDWARD HORGAN,

Castletroy,

Limerick.

Sir, – What seems to be overlooked in the discussion on the commemoration of 1916 is the fact that the choice of two lines of advance for this nation that faced us then still remained in the years that followed – the line of constitutional nationalism or the line of force of arms. A tiny minority of a minority led the nation in an armed campaign in 1916 but we, as a people, chose and continue to choose constitutional nationalism, voting in large numbers for the Treaty when it was offered.

It is one thing to acknowledge those who sacrificed their lives for their beliefs, as well as sadly remembering the tragic deaths of those 250 innocent civilians, including 40 children, but another to tell the families of the 170,000 of the 180,000 Irish Volunteers, who went with Redmond in his fight for Home Rule, that their relatives were wrong.

Two thousand “came out” for the Rising but 200,000 followed the call from the Irish Parliamentary Party to fight for Home Rule in the first World War. We hear a lot about the relatives of those who took part in the Rising but very little on the relatives of those who followed the constitutional path. – Yours, etc,

PATRICK D GOGGIN,

Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.

A chara, – Thinking back to my youth, I don’t recall there being many books by Irish authors set in Ireland whose intended audience were Irish children. And while Billy Bunter and the Famous Five were all well and good, and in fairness I enjoyed them immensely and loved them dearly, I still remember the sense of disconnection I felt while reading them: this wasn’t my world; these weren’t the landscapes I knew, the speech patterns I was familiar with, or the values of the people around me. Irish characters, when they occurred, seemed intended largely for light relief.

Looking at the O’Brien Press website, I see things have changed dramatically for the better. They have a plethora of books for children by Irish authors, featuring Irish characters, taking place in Ireland.

Will they be able to continue to provide quality Irish fiction aimed at Irish children minus the Arts Council grant? I don’t know; but given the small size of the Irish market it is difficult to see how.

Which is why I think the grant should be restored in full. It’s the only way to guarantee that things don’t go back to the way they used to be, with our children restricted to whatever happens to dominate the UK market. Our children are, I believe, worth it. – Is mise,

Rev PATRICK G BURKE,

Castlecomer,

Co Kilkenny.

Sir, – It is unfortunate that Alison McCoy (December 6th) does not indicate the reasons why she was “put off” by the high number of translations in Eileen Battersby’s choice of the top fiction titles of 2014. However, her query about whether “there [were] really only four written in the original English worth recommending” suggests that fiction in translation is to be considered only when the literary options in one’s native language have been exhausted.  This seems an insular stance to adopt – in an era of increasing globalisation, are we to limit our reading exclusively to writers from Anglophone cultures? With around 96 per cent of all literary publications annually in the UK and Ireland being originally written in English, it is unlikely that even the most voracious bookworm will run out of reading material before she or he must resort to literature in translation. Yet in providing different stories about other cultures, world views, and histories, we believe such literatures to be essential to understanding ourselves and our position in the world. Moreover, the success of writers such as Haruki Murakami, Umberto Eco and, more recently, Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbø, has demonstrated that translations too can be blockbusters. Thus we commend not only Eileen Battersby’s decision to include such a geographically and linguistically broad selection of writers in her list, but also her commitment to highlight recent developments in international literature, such as her surveys of Finnish (December 6th) and German (November 3rd) books in translation, as well her recent reviews of works by Georges Perec, Antonio Pennacchi, Hanne Orstavik, Daniel Kehlmann, Béla Zombory-Moldován, Wolfgang Koeppen, and others (in all of which she mentions the translator!). – Yours, etc,

Dr JOHN KEARNS,

Irish Translators’ and

Interpreters’ Association,

Irish Writers’ Centre,

19 Parnell Square, Dublin 1.

Sir, – I endorse the sentiments expressed in Barry Devon’s letter (December 8th) about the cut in funding to the National Museum of Ireland.

A museum is not only about “old things” but about people too. The National Museum is not only part of our legacy but that of all future generations to come. – Yours, etc,

CATRIONA FOGARTY,

Sandycove,

Co Dublin.

Irish Independent:

Irish President Michael Higgins (L) stands next to his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping during a signing ceremony in Beijing's Great Hall of the People December 9, 2014.   REUTERS/Greg Baker/Pool   (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS)
President Michael D Higgins with Chinese leader Xi Jinping at a ceremony in Beijing

Ireland is a little country and our President, Michael D Higgins, is a man small in stature. Heeding that oft-quoted expression “quality goods come in small packets”, we are blessed to have the best of both worlds.

On his recent trade mission to China, our President excelled in presenting and selling our country. Culturally, and by creating so many flattering similarities between the two nations, he won hands down.

In being privileged with an instant audience with President Xi Jinping , Michael D even surpassed the UK’s David Cameron in terms of acceptance.

Within minutes of their meeting, the Chinese leader, potentially the leader of the largest and most advanced economy on earth, was accepting Michael D’s invitation to visit Ireland.

The scope to promote the Irish food industry and the tourism sector with China is colossal.

If only four Chinese multinationals set up here to employ just 12,000 people, we would be on the pig’s back.

It would be similar to the huge American companies – Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Google, Facebook and dozens more – coming here over the past 20 years.

When the Chinese discover our friendly services, technical know-how and excellent infrastructure facilities, they will spread the good news and more will follow.

With a strong support team comprising Finance Minster Michael Noonan and Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan and their officials, the President’s mission will hopefully yield results.

At the end of the day, all the diplomatic niceties have just one real focus in mind – the creation of jobs we so desperately need!

James Gleeson, Thurles, Co Tipperary

Save our Real Tennis court

Some 75 years ago, on December 14, 1939, the Taoiseach of the day was presented with the key of one of the most desirable and valuable property holdings in Dublin city, signifying the bequest to the Irish State of Iveagh House, its gardens and associated facilities.

It was the culmination of a process that had begun two years earlier when the government had approached Rupert Guinness, second Earl of Iveagh, to buy the property, primarily for expansion of the adjacent University College.

The house, facing St Stephen’s Green, was taken over for the use of the Department of Foreign Affairs. The gardens, which Lord Iveagh stipulated should never be built on, but kept as “a lung for Dublin” have only become open to the public in the last 15 years.

The third and very little known part of the bequest was the black marble court for the playing of the ancient game of Real Tennis, whose distinctive orange brick gable abuts Earlsfort Terrace.

The donor expressed a particular wish for this cherished part of his family’s history – on which a World Championship match was staged in 1890 – “I am, of course, loath to think of the tennis court being destroyed, as I think it is unique in its way and might be appreciated by players in Dublin”.

Sadly, the players of that generation and since have never been allowed access to the beautiful court, which has suffered many depredations.

Foremost among Real Tennis players is the world champion of the past 20 years, Robert Fahey, a Tasmanian native who learned his skills on the court at Hobart, but whose forefather, James, left Loughrea, Co Galway, in 1855.

It is to be hoped that ongoing lobbying of the Government can succeed in saving the court for its intended purpose.

TD Neville, Heritage Officer, Irish Real Tennis Association, Douglas, Co Cork

Our democracy is alive and well

Does Desmond FitzGerald not see the irony of his pontificating from London about the institutions of this country being a “rotten corpse” which need to be got rid of (Letters, Irish Independent, December 11)?

This nearly 100-year-old democratic republic, like all human institutions, is less than perfect. But its flaws and its abuses of power pale into insignificance when compared with the nearly 800 years of colonial rule from London which preceded it.

Democracy in this country was not well served by the unchallenged power of the insider elite during the boom.

But that does not mean that our democratic institutions are a rotten corpse, as Mr FitzGerald says.

Neither does it mean that we should get rid of our democratic institutions and give the insider elite who bankrupted the country even more power.

A Leavy, Sutton, Dublin 13

 

Hold Israel to account

The Irish parliament has shown its mettle by supporting an independent Palestinian state.

Ireland has an impeccable track record in supporting the Palestinian people in their noble struggle for self-determination and independence.

Like any other people on the planet, Palestinians have the inviolable right to live in dignity and peace, without persistent discrimination, without siege, without home demolitions, without land confiscation, and without a litany of daily infringements on their fundamental human rights.

Isil is an anathema to humanity and Islam. This phenomena has caused thousands of refugees to flee to neighbouring countries, from beheading and crucifixions.

Yet while the world community has united to defeat the scourge of Isil, it remains silent at best and indifferent at worst to the unspeakable misery of the Palestinians. Hasn’t the time come to hold Israel accountable and put an end to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob, London NW2, UK

 

Welcoming the solar new year

The solar new year will begin on Sunday, December 21.

Measured at the Newgrange observatory (carbon dated at prior to 3200 BCE), the event will take place at 10:23 am. The window box at Newgrange shows the shadow of the new year’s sun for 28 minutes. It has been doing that for over 5,000 years at Newgrange.

It will also show the summer solstice on June 21 at the same time.

You can create your own observatory to show the winter and summer solstices for your area.

To do so: In a window, create a window box facing east, and measure the shadow of the sun at its lowest point in the year as it passes through it. Mark the farthest point of the shadow.

Now, here is the critical part. It occurs at 10:23am at Newgrange, and you must determine how many time zones you are west of Newgrange for your area.

The shadow will incline from that point throughout the year until June 21 at the same time, when the sun reaches the highest point in the sky.

Vincent Corrigan, PhD, Director of The Institute For Cultural Ecology

1916 rebels were on people’s side

Kate Casey (Letters, Irish Independent, December 14) supports the contention that the 1916 rebels had no mandate for the Rising.

Surely one has to ask what mandate the British had in Ireland? From my school history lessons, I do not recall a democratic election that resulted in British rule over Ireland.

World War I was an attempt by the imperialist powers, such as France and Britain, to extend their colonies and for Germany to begin building its own empire. For this cause, hundreds of thousands of men were sent to their deaths.

Padraig Pearse and the other leaders of the 1916 Rising were on the side of the Irish people. It seems that often we are almost ashamed to commemorate our own history and are more likely to commemorate someone else’s.

Rory O’Callaghan, Ceannt Fort, Dublin 8

Irish Independent

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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 )

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: