Childrens’s books

5 January 2015 Childrens books

Mary a little worse sore tummy and cake not mussels for lunch. I get a box of children’s books on Freecycle.


Lady Kennet was a writer and commentator whose founding of the Hawksmoor Committee saved Christ Church, Spitalfields, for the nation

Lady Kennet

Lady Kennet

Lady Kennet, who has died aged 91, was a poet and artist and a prolific commentator on architectural and defence matters; the survival of the great London churches of Nicholas Hawksmoor perhaps owes more to her than to any other single individual.

Elizabeth Kennet wrote seven books, some of them with her husband, Wayland Young, on matters ranging from London churches, Italy, nuclear weapons and arms control, and learned articles on a wide range of subjects.

Their book Old London Churches (1956) praised these buildings as “heroic, monumental, and unconstricted: utterly without meanness or gaudy pride; occasionally with a soaring certainty”, and Elizabeth was instrumental in setting up the Hawksmoor Committee, in response to a real threat to demolish Christ Church, Spitalfields. Having attracted influential sponsors, the purpose of this committee – which included John Betjeman, Ian Nairn and Hawksmoor’s biographer Kerry Downes – was “to bring the architecture of Nicholas Hawksmoor before the public eye, and to ensure that money will be found to secure the future of his two great Stepney churches, Christ Church, Spitalfields, and St Anne’s, Limehouse”; and, eventually, it was.

Arthur Koestler then invited her to found the Tibor Dery Committee, to promote the release of Hungarian writers following the Soviet invasion of Budapest.

Her military knowledge was inspired by her father, Captain Bryan Fullerton Adams, a naval expert with the disarmament section of the League of Nations in Geneva before the Second World War.

Lady Kennet was born Elizabeth Ann Adams in London on April 14 1923. She lived in Geneva and attended school there, becoming fluent in French, before going to Downe House and winning an exhibition to Somerville College, Oxford, where she read PPE.

In 1948 she married Wayland Young, later the 2nd Lord Kennet, who became a housing minister under Richard Crossman in the Wilson government of the late 1960s. Soon after her marriage Lady Kennet started writing, with an article for Vogue on the island of Giglio in 1950. She also covered arms control, disarmament and maritime matters. Old London Churches was John Betjeman’s Book of the Year, and her book on Northern Lazio, co-written with her husband, won the 1990 European Federation Tourist Press Book Prize. Her 1958 book of poems Time is as Time Does was chosen by Geoffrey Grigson as his Poetry Book of the Year.

Christ Church, Spitalfields

Lady Kennet was an active member of many boards and organisations, including the Advisory Board for Redundant Churches; the Advisory Committee for the Protection of the Sea; the Royal United Services Institution; the Royal Institute for International Affairs, Chatham House; and the International Institute for Strategic Studies. The former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger and the former foreign secretary Lord Owen were among her friends.

As a housing and local government minister, Lord Kennet played a leading role in saving St Pancras Station and in devising the new department for the environment, which encouraged the blue plaque scheme in London. So it is appropriate that there is a plaque on their house in Bayswater honouring a previous occupant, J M Barrie, who wrote Peter Pan there.

There is a proposal for another plaque on the house, honouring Lord Kennet’s half-brother Sir Peter Scott, the naturalist, artist, glider pilot and America’s Cup skipper – the first Lady Kennet’s first husband was Captain Scott of the Antarctic. Elizabeth Kennet also worked with Sir Peter Scott in the early days of the Severn Wildfowl Trust (later the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust), which he started at Slimbridge.

For many years Elizabeth Kennet was the guardian of the historic Barrie house, so close to the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens. With her death, and steeply rising house prices in the area, there must be doubts about how it can be preserved for the nation.

Recently Lady Kennet was involved in saving Stonehenge as a World Heritage Site. At the time of her death she was at work on a new book, Preemptive Mourning.

Lord Kennet died in 2009. Lady Kennet is survived by her son, Thoby, and five daughters, Easter, Emily, Mopsa, Louisa and Zoe.

Lady Kennet, born April 14 1923, died November 30 2014


Lenny Henry, race, class and the media

Media Diversity
Lenny Henry, as guest editor of Radio 4’s the Today programme. ‘There aren’t many people of ethnic origin at the very top of broadcast journalism like Lenny Henry (factory worker father, secondary modern) from the working-class streets of Dudley.’ writes Catherine Pepinster. Photograph: Jeff Overs/BBC

As someone who is a regular visitor to the Today studio as a contributor to the Thought for the Day slot, I share Lenny Henry’s concerns about the production team being very white, male and middle class (We had one day of diversity on R4. Now for the other 364, 1 January).

However, when he repeats diversity campaigner Simon Albury’s comment that the only person of colour on Today was the one bringing the tea and coffee, he and Albury are not spotting the hope for the future. In my experience, if you talk to the runners who collect Today guests from reception and bring you coffee, you find that they are young graduates beginning their broadcasting careers and are starting on the production and/or journalism road, and I’ve undoubtedly met quite a few who are of minority ethnic origin. Some of them are women too. So the next generations of executives may well be more diverse.

The biggest current problem is class. There aren’t many people of minority ethnic origin at the very top of broadcast journalism like Lenny Henry (factory worker father, secondary modern) from the working-class streets of Dudley. The best tend to be like Mishal Husain (doctor father, private school, New Hall, Cambridge) and Rageh Omaar (wealthy businessman father, private school, New College, Oxford).
Catherine Pepinster
Editor, The Tablet

• While racism is experienced across all classes, our media’s class bias is overwhelming. Most British journalists went to private school. Radio 4 is dominated by cut-glass accents. While 6.5% of the UK school-age population attend public schools, 64% of the most influential people in the media industry were privately educated. Seven of the nine BBC employees on the Media Guardian 100 list were privately educated. Most prominent British comedians, come to that, seem to have attended public schools.

Recruitment from within the posh crew is all too often via dinner party and other personal connections. An emphasis on racism as personally rather than systemically constructed is in danger of feeding this: while transparent recruitment and selection policies would be better than accessing a posh BAME crew for now, in the long run we need to look to the class base – to economic democracy and the redistribution of wealth – in order to root out structural racism.
Peter McKenna

• I was distressed to read that Lenny Henry had been called “racist” for his choice of subject matter when he guest-edited the Today programme. Personally I found it refreshing and thought-provoking. I enjoyed listening to it, despite being a white woman in her 70s.

However, I had the privilege of working for the Greater London council, under the leadership of Ken Livingstone. I taught history and careers education in London schools to black, Asian and minority ethnic pupils. I learned as much – possibly more – from them as they learned from me.

As staff inspector for careers education, in the final days of the Inner London Education Authority, my team of schools industry liaison officers worked through the London compacts to develop the employability skills of pupils of all races and genders. These experiences made me aware how deeply entrenched racism is, in English society, along with the pernicious class system. Can we all make a new year’s resolution to eradicate racism and prejudice, wherever we find it – even in the BBC?
Anne Dart Taylor
Honeybourne, Worcestershire

• Lenny Henry admirably highlights the white male bias in the Today programme. His plea for more “black people, Asian and minority ethnics” may not include Gypsy and Traveller minorities. I have regularly acted as expert witness against anti-Gypsy racism.

Before the catastrophic Dale Farm eviction, I accepted an invitation to be on Today the next morning. Before ringing off, I naively asked for the presenters’ names. I commented that one had fronted a documentary where he argued that foreign migrants were imported for seasonal work in Wisbech solely because the locals were psychologically “lazy”. No recognition that, for decades, the work was all done by Gypsies before the 1994 legislation restricted travelling. Minutes later, the BBC representative rang back: my Today participation was cancelled. Seemingly, even a white female professor, also with a PPE degree, was too threatening if she dared critique a white male presenter.
Professor Judith Okely
Author, The Traveller-Gypsies

• To follow on from Lenny Henry’s version of Today (Henry’s Today takes on ‘devil’s avocados’, 31 December) presented by non-white people, could we have an experiment where the country is run by non-male people, just to see how it goes?
Mary Gildea

Monday demonstrations in Leipzig, East Germany - 1989
Demonstrators form a human chain after a service in the Nikolaikirche, Leipzig, in 1989 to demand free elections and the right to travel. ‘A clear example of the church at the dangerous forefront of a historic battle against epic political injustice,’ writes John Summers. Photograph: Focus/Rex Features

Zekria Ibrahimi writes of the disastrous impact of Christianity on the world (Letters, 30 December). I am an atheist but cannot let this nonsense pass. For a start Christianity has given us some of the most exquisite art, architecture and music. The Bible is indeed full of inconsistencies, but it contains many valid exhortations to moral behaviour, such as “love thy neighbour”. Without the Bible our literature would be much the poorer.

Non-believers have drawn attention to the fact that Christianity and other religions are often best placed to respond to social need because they are so organised that they can respond quickly. Much that has been done in the name of Christ over the centuries is indeed deplorable, but that does not negate the positive contributions that this and other religions have made to today’s societies. It is the ultimate irony that Ibrahimi says liberalism is the guarantor of tolerance whereas his letter exhibits a lack of tolerance worthy of the late Rev Paisley in his heyday.
Joseph Cocker

• David Rainbird (Letters, 29 December) asks which dictatorships Christianity has fought and toppled. One of last year’s most moving moments for me was spent sitting in the Nikolaikirche in Leipzig, listening to the stories of the part that that church and its pastor Christian Führer played in the collapse of the GDR in 1989. The critical mass of non-violent popular opposition to the totalitarian regime grew out of gatherings of worshippers at Führer’s weekly prayers for peace. Holding these and facilitating the associated gatherings was an astonishingly brave public stand. Stasi officers sent to spy on the services are said to have been won over to the pastor’s message of peace and understanding. Is this to say that the church alone toppled the GDR? Absolutely not. Is this to say that no other body (religious or otherwise) might have done similar? Absolutely not. But it is a clear example of the church at the dangerous forefront of a historic battle against epic political injustice. What a shame it would be if quiet stands like these were to be lost in the bombast of religious intolerance.
John Summers

• Your editorial about the persecution of Christians in the Middle East (26 December) contained the bizarre statement that “even Israel, which presents itself as a beacon of religious liberty, is a dreadful place to live for Christian Arabs, caught between an occupying army in the West Bank and Muslim fundamentalism in Gaza”. But Israel is the only place where Christian Arabs are safe from persecution. They would not be as safe in any surrounding Muslim area, including Gaza and the parts of the West Bank controlled by the PA. You might as well say that a lifeboat is a dreadful place because it is surrounded by deep water.
Sarah Lawson

***BESTPIX***  ESA Attempts To Land Probe On Comet
The surface of the 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet as seen from the Philae lander. ‘The ESA has access to expert astronomers, and might just know what it’s talking about,’ writes Professor Ian Stewart. Photograph: ESA/Getty Images

John Bowler (Letters, 31 December) is puzzled why the European Space Agency keeps saying that 67P is a comet. He claims it is an asteroid and objects to the ESA’s poor science.

A few clues. The ESA has access to expert astronomers, and might just know what it’s talking about. The name 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko is typical of comets; asteroid names have a different format. The P means “periodic comet”. It is listed as 67P/1969 R1 in the Planetary Data System Small Bodies Node table of comets. Asteroids are mostly rocky or metallic, comets are thought to be mainly ice. The Philae lander confirmed that 67P is icy: it looks like a rock because it is covered in dust. Most asteroid orbits are approximately circular; 67P ranges between 1.24 and 5.68 AU from the sun. When comets approach the sun, the ice turns to vapour, creating a haze (or “coma”) that sometimes develops into the characteristic tail. The main purpose of the Rosetta mission is to follow 67P as it undergoes this process. When discovered in 1969, 67P had a coma and a tail one arc-minute long. Its 1996 appearance showed a slightly larger coma. Although the best-known comets have highly eccentric long-period orbits, there are also many short-period comets that stay closer to the sun, and 67P is one of these.

Mr Bowler apparently can’t tell his comet from his asteroid.
Professor Ian Stewart
University of Warwick

Peter York (Point of view, Review, 3 January) correctly skewers multiple forms of “authenticity” as a modern form of salesmanship, trying to “add value” to otherwise indistinguishable products.

But he leaves out the biggest exploitation of the lot – in art. Even if art historians and other “experts” cannot differentiate originals from copies (“fakes”), establishing the “authenticity” of an art work, its provenance – that it was done by some now celebrated artist – adds millions to its value. Art dealers are the supreme sellers of “authenticity”.
Jack Winkler

Summer holiday … Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia, on Christmas Day.
Antipodean summer holiday … Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia, on Christmas Day. Photograph: Ross Hodgson/Rex Features

Sophie Heawood says she used to buy only academic year diaries as she thinks a new year should begin at the end of summer (Weekend, 3 December). She lives in the wrong hemisphere. In New Zealand academic and calendar years coincide. One winds down towards Christmas, goes on the summer holiday, then comes back refreshed some time into the new year.
Ian Dunbar
Warrington, Cheshire

• A picture with your piece on homelessness in Victorian London (3 January) allegedly shows “coffin beds”. A coffin bed was coffin-shaped (wider at the head end) so more could be fitted in by placing them alternately head to foot. Actual coffin beds can be seen at the Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse museum in Norfolk.
Felicity Randall
Fakenham, Norfolk

• Own goal? In the Tories’ poster (Conservatives fire starting gun for 2015 election, 3 January) I saw a beautiful, tranquil countryside rent asunder by a dark, dismal road/austerity. Perhaps they should have added them/us on either side.
Sally Holliday
Ledbury, Herefordshire

Why aren’t the black boxes on aircraft designed to float to the surface after an accident at sea (AirAsia plane may have sunk after sea landing, 2 January)?
Rob Watling
Radcliffe-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire 

• Spotted in my veg patch on 1 January: cabbage white caterpillars munching on the overwintering purple sprouting broccoli. Winter must be over now.
Margaret Fernandez
Llangrove, Herefordshire

• First sighting of hot cross buns in the local supermarket, 3 January.
Holly Anderson


The death of Debbie Purdy (obituary, 31 December) has once again highlighted the tragic situation of people whose experience of life is so awful that they want it to end. Whatever we do leaves us with a feeling of loss; it is not as simple as a decision between right and wrong.

I have been involved twice in decisions like this. I was “buddy” to a friend dying of Aids whose situation was desperate. He felt horribly ill, had become little more than a skeleton and did not have the strength even to feed himself. He wanted to die and asked me to help. I had to say no, not because of the fear of legal proceedings but because, as a priest, I just did not feel able to do so.

The next day I went to his flat to see him and, as I expected, to call the doctor and undertaker. He had not died, though drugs he had taken had made his situation even worse. I found him on the floor. An ambulance was called and he lingered another week in hospital.

The second time concerned my mother. At 87 she was suffering from osteoporosis and was in great pain in hospital. She felt her life had run its course. The doctor suggested that she have morphine but warned that by so doing her life could be shortened. She and I agreed, and my mother died four days later without regaining consciousness.

In neither case was I left feeling I had done the right thing. Was I letting unimportant concerns about principles prevent the compassion my friend so desperately needed? Was I putting my own conscience before his need? Above all should I have talked of the Christian hope of resurrection and prepared him for his death? And with my mother, did she really hope that I would say no, and prove to her that I still cared and wanted her to stay alive?

There are no answers to these questions, and after thirty years in the case of my friend, and twenty in the case of my mother, I am still left with feelings of guilt.

Neil Dawson
London SE27


How refreshing it is that a medical expert has for once advised us on what to die of, rather than what not to die of (“Cancer is ‘best death’, so don’t try to cure it, says doctor”, 1 January). Whenever I am threatened by the health police or government that I shall die of this, that or the other unless I change my lifestyle, I want to respond: “What do you want me to die of, then?”

As it happens, I don’t want to die of cancer, but would rather die in my sleep, while still (in all other respects) in good health and of a sound mind. Can the experts advise me on how to change my lifestyle so as to make this the most likely outcome?

George Macdonald Ross


We can welcome more refugees

Your editorial of 3 January rightly identifies the solution to the refugee crisis in the Middle East as a long-term political settlement. This, however, will be years ahead, and in the meantime, as you say, “hundreds of thousands of refugees have to subsist in the quiet squalor of border camps with inadequate shelter, food and water”.

I understand that our government has done more than most with regard to financial support, and has match-funded charitable contributions. It has, however, provided shelter here in the UK for only about 100 refugees. Surely our common humanity should dictate that this country offers shelter to more refugees, proportionate to our position in the family of nations. I am sure that with the assistance of charities, local authorities and volunteers, temporary accommodation and support could be found for more of these poor people.

The leaders of our political parties and churches should be at the forefront of demands for this country to shoulder its fair share of the refugee burden; instead we are met with a deafening silence.

Geoff Webber
Harrogate, North Yorkshire


The plight of more than 1,000 refugees abandoned in the Mediterranean sea on board the merchant ships Blue Sky M and Ezadeen is regrettably the tip of an enormous human tragedy that will continue to unfold for decades.

Regardless of the measures taken by governments to control EU immigration, I would suggest that a bigger, longer-term threat to Europe lies in developing countries. With an estimated 220 million women having no access to contraception, is it any wonder that the world’s population, having tripled since 1950, continues to grow by 240,000 a day?

Until this problem is comprehensively addressed the relentless growth of the world’s population will continue to be the driving force behind the mass immigration, as millions seek to escape a life of grinding poverty. Who would do otherwise?

Mike Wheeler
Gosport, Hampshire


Now to settle the West Lothian Question

The wiseacres have been busy with their New Year prophecies. However, one important question still remains to be answered: will 2015 be the year when Britain finally resolves its crisis of governance?

Ever since Tam Dalyell raised his West Lothian question we have been waiting for a workable answer. It must be full-blown federalism. By giving Wales and Scotland assemblies, Tony Blair, for understandable reasons, created a hybrid arrangement in place of the unitary constitution we had previously. We now need to finish the job. “English votes for English laws” would just be a stop-gap solution which  would lead to further complications.

Three things would seem to be needed: first, the creation of that till now elusive English parliament; second, a properly federal assembly on the lines of the American Congress or the German Bundestag; and last but certainly not least, a new, written constitution  to apportion to the different parliaments their appropriate roles and ensure even treatment of their respective electorates (which of course does not at present obtain). Clearly also the opportunity should be taken to address undemocratic anomalies such as the House of Lords.

The May election is unlikely in itself to solve our political discontents. Indeed it is likely merely to exacerbate them.

Andrew McLuskey
Staines, Surrey


The government’s proposals for “English votes for English laws” fall far short of what is needed to address the political crisis facing the UK as a result of greater devolution to Scotland and the disintegration of the two-party system. The way forward is to decide what should be devolved to Scotland and then to ensure that all regions of the UK have the same powers.

Any parliament should not be elected on the first-past-the-post system as this disenfranchises a large (and increasing) number of people. The way forward is to establish regional assemblies in England and for all devolved administrations to be represented in a Senate which would replace the House of Lords. Regional representation in a Senate should mean that future budgets have to adopt policies that reflect the economic diversity of the UK as a whole, not just London and the South.

The only way to resolve these issues is through a Constitutional Convention, as Labour proposes, but it must be wide-ranging and not focused on making the current system work. Perhaps a starting point would be to look at the German constitution. It seems to work for them.

Andrew Baker
Harrow, Middlesex


What Tracey Emin’s art tells us

Richard Charnley haughtily informs us (letter, 3 January) that great art tells you something about yourself and that Tracey Emin’s art fails this test as it only tells us about her. I think this is silly.

Emin is certainly part of a long artistic tradition in giving a personal response to the artist’s own experience.

It is not true that great art necessarily tells you something about yourself. Most people would consider Michelangelo’s David to be great art, and I do too, but apart from the trivial recognition that my own body suffers by comparison to David’s, I don’t really see that it tells me anything about myself.

The truth is that art can be great for all sorts of different reasons and in many different ways.

Jonathan Wallace
Newcastle upon Tyne


British Jews and Israel

John Dorken (letter, 27 December) is correct insofar as he attributes some anti-Semitism here to hostility to Israel’s Gaza actions. However his conclusion is outrageous:  “Surely then the solution lies in leaders of the Jewish community in Britain taking a more considered and independent line on Israel’s action.” In other words, if they don’t, they’ve asked for it.

Graham Everett
Watford, Hertfordshire


Benjamin Netanyahu is quite indignant about the Palestinians wanting to join the International Criminal Court, saying that it is the Palestinians who should fear war crimes prosecutions (report, 1 January). So you would expect him to encourage them to join. It’s interesting to consider why he doesn’t.

Fabian Acker
London SE22





Letters: We must not allow the Nationalists to dictate Scotland’s future

The post-referendum relationship between Scotland and the Union; Catholic Bishops in the House of Lords; improving Britain’s care record; and disorientated buttonholes

A pro-independence poster is pictured with pro-union graffiti in a window in the town of Selkirk

A pro-independence poster is pictured with pro-union graffiti in a window in the town of Selkirk Photo: Lesley Martin/AFP/Getty Images

SIR – Bruce Anderson has a point when he says that there is no reason why, in a future referendum, Scottish areas which vote No to independence should not be allowed to stay in the Union.

In north-east Scotland, where there is a culture of canniness, hard work, enterprise and honesty, many feel they have little in common with fellow Scots in the Central Belt who espouse the Nationalist cause. This attitude was summed up by some graffiti spotted in the lavatories of an Aberdeen pub some years ago which proclaimed: “Home rule for Scotland, but not by Edinburgh lawyers and Glasgow crooks.”

Peter Myers
Oldmeldrum, Aberdeenshire

SIR – Mr Anderson highlights two changes that must be implemented should a second independence referendum take place.

I would add one more to this list: all people born in Scotland should be eligible to vote, irrespective of where they live. Surely these people have more right to vote than my grandson, who has no connection to Scotland other than the fact that he happens to attend Edinburgh University.

M G Bateman
Grayshott, Surrey

SIR – Mr Anderson’s insightful article on the Scottish referendum campaign points out how Nationalist-leaning citizens used intimidation to achieve their ends. They were, of course, reflecting the demagogic outpourings of Alex Salmond and his rabble-rousing crew.

In her Christmas address the Queen called for reconciliation, although it is difficult to see how that could happen in such a poisoned atmosphere.

Alec Ellis

SIR – I disagree with the suggestion that Scotland is being held back by those who would “run a mile” from a job offer. Even if it were true I fail to see how this sets it apart from the rest of the United Kingdom.

It is also important to note that not all Scots are “stalkers, ghillies and keepers”, rolling in the heather chasing grouse. Scotland has universities that are at the forefront of research, and some of the world’s best scientists, doctors, economists, artists, writers and musicians.

A failure to understand this is exactly the reason Scotland was almost lost in the referendum.

Angela Drennan
Dunfermline, Fife

SIR – Fifty-five per cent of those who cast their votes elected to remain in the United Kingdom in September, after hard campaigning by a large number of very loyal ordinary Scots. Comments like those made by Christopher Booker (“The insecure Scots have turned in on themselves – and against us”) encourage those who want to see the break-up of the Union.

Norman J Jack

SIR – Some three months after the referendum, anti-English rhetoric is still evident from many Scots. The promised implementation of “English votes for English laws” has stalled. The outcome of the general election next year is impossible to predict and the emergence of another coalition government with the SNP holding the balance of power is a probability.

It is becoming more apparent by the day that it would have been better if Scotland had voted to separate.

Don Bailey
Helsby, Cheshire

SIR – There is a distinct air of uncertainty about the future organisation of Britain. To get a more rounded, unbiased view on the subject, we should assemble an assessment committee comprising not only British members but representatives from countries such as Canada, America, Australia and Germany, who have seen and operated federal systems and can assess the advantages, drawbacks and unintended consequences of ideas put forward for constitutional reform.

John Hannaford
Lymington, Hampshire

Catholic bishops have no place in the Lords

SIR – Matt Showering makes a no doubt well-intentioned call for improved Roman Catholic representation in the House of Lords by granting seats to Roman Catholic bishops. This would not be the way to go.

Over the Catholic Church’s long history, it has discovered that mixing clerical and legislative offices can lead to problems. There are many famous examples where the seduction of temporal power diminished and obscured the pastoral mission of ordained ministers, or where the Gospel suffered instrumentalisation at the hands of passing ideologies.

The Catholic Church instead challenges its laity to enter the public sphere and to work through a variety of political parties and structures to see Christ’s teaching reflected in public life. As Catholic politicians, we believe that is the right way to go.

Rob Flello MP (Lab)

Jonathan Evans MP (Con)

Mike Kane MP (Lab)

Stephen Pound MP (Lab)

Cllr Chris Whitehouse (Con)

Isle of Wight County Council

Lord Hylton (Crossbench)

Lord Balfe (Con)

Don’t cull; vaccinate


SIR – Had the money wasted on badger culling (which gives no hope of a permanent solution) been invested in research and development, a TB vaccine for cattle would be available by now. Once vaccinated, all calves and imported livestock would be safe; in time the TB reservoir in wildlife would also diminish.

As vaccination of cattle against TB is presently prohibited by EU law, the issue could be added to the list of gripes for the forthcoming treaty negotiation.

Dr David Smith
Clyro, Radnorshire

Caring ought to be a vocation, not just a job

SIR – Thank you for highlighting the urgent need for more rigorous mandatory training for care workers, which is long overdue.

In light of present job shortages, people are being drawn to apply for care jobs simply because they need the money, however poorly paid the job may be, and not because they really want to undertake such work.

Caring is, and always has been, a vocation, not just a job. It is hard work and not always pleasant but, when carried out properly, brings its own rewards.

Ann Robertson
Tenterden, Kent

SIR – As a parent of a middle-aged, profoundly disabled daughter, I welcome your Justice for the Elderly campaign, which seeks to get better care for both the elderly and the disabled.

Richard Hawkes points to a lack of funding, which is of course a major issue, but he fails to mention that the charity Scope, of which he is CEO, is closing residential homes and evicting nearly 200 profoundly disabled people, many of whom have lived in these homes for years. Their communities will be broken up and they will be put in the care of the local authority. The cost to the state will increase, putting the care system under even greater pressure.

Frank Lindsell
Ely, Cambridgeshire

SIR – There have been so many negative reports of care for the sick and elderly that I feel compelled to report on my positive experience.

My husband suffered from dementia and heart problems for two years. During this time Positive Horizons home care, based in Derbyshire, provided excellent care. My husband always looked forward to their visits and the carers were cheerful and kind. When my husband died suddenly at home, the carer stayed with me while a senior carer took over her duties.

Having had this experience I intend to stay in my own home should I become incapacitated.

Zita Roscoe
Ashbourne, Derbyshire

SIR – My mother developed dementia in her seventies. In the early years of her illness she may have “lived with dementia”, but I can assure Toby Williamson that she suffered too. In later years dementia controlled her life and dominated that of her immediate family.

Mr Williamson’s criticism of Joan Bakewell for using the term “dementia sufferers” trivialises the suffering of those in the later stages of dementia.

Sheelagh A James
Lichfield, Staffordshire

Suffer the children

SIR – Andrew M Brown moans about noisy children in church. Not everyone has a retinue of staff to look after their offspring, as the Duchess of Cambridge has, and most churches are glad to get anyone through the door – especially children.

Penny Sedgwick
Springthorpe, Lincolnshire

Railway chaos

SIR – The debacle on Britain’s railways over the Christmas period was a sorry tale of appalling management.

Even sorrier are the calls for huge fines for Network Rail – not helpful because such fines remove potential funding for infrastructure investment – and calls for re-nationalisation of the railways. I commuted 65 miles to work by train for 28 years in the latter days of British Railways and through privatisation. The prospect of a return to a state-run system, controlled by trade unions and with zero focus on the customer, is appalling.

The Government needs to get a grip on Network Rail, give it sufficient funding and ensure the money is spent wisely.

Richard Holness
Herne Bay, Kent

Toil and trouble

SIR – The Great War (“Theatre can make the dead walk before you”) provided the backdrop for the best open-air production of Shakespeare I have ever seen – a version of Macbeth, by Heartbreak Productions, set in a rehabilitation hospital at the end of the First World War.

Shakespeare’s story of tyranny and abuse of power was used as a metaphor for the horrors encountered in the trenches. The carnage was interspersed with an exemplary choice of First World War songs and such clever touches as the witches emerging from a cloud of mustard gas wearing gas masks.

Jeremy Brien

Party problems

SIR – The failings of the Labour Party go much deeper than simply having a lame-duck leader.

Labour’s record on the economy, immigration, education, the NHS and crime is woeful. When it comes to policies or personalities, Labour has neither.

Mick Ferrie
Mawnan Smith, Cornwall

The Queen speaks for Britain across the world

The Queen stands with the band of the Blues and Royals at Horse Guards Parade (Alamy)

SIR – Harry Mount is right to praise the Queen for her remarkable success in the “art of giving voice to a nation”.

The Queen was tutored from the age of 12 by her father to become monarch, which she did in 1952 aged just 23. She has never uttered a comment out of place which could be used controversially by the media. Consequently, she has so grown in stature and reputation that statesmen and women from the Commonwealth nations as well as countries further afield, know that they can say anything to her or seek her advice and it will never be repeated.

Who else would be both wise and discreet enough to fulfil this role? The current system may not please constitutional purists, but it works.

Of course the barometer of public opinion about the Royal family can swing positively and negatively. When the Prince of Wales succeeds the Queen, he will bring with him plenty of baggage arising from public comments on a wide range of matters.

John Lidstone
Sutton Scotney, Hampshire

SIR – In his excellent analysis of the Queen’s broadcast, Harry Mount did not mention her unwavering faith. She referred to Jesus Christ, “the Prince of peace”, as her strength and support. In seeking reconciliation, the Queen reflects the forgiveness that Jesus taught.

Morwena Williams
Pentraeth, Anglesey

Button it

SIR – On about half of my short-sleeved shirts the bottom buttonhole runs east-west instead of north-south like all the others. Is this a manufacturing aberration or is there a purpose, perhaps lost in antiquity, behind it?

Bruce Denness
Whitwell, Isle of Wight

Flying high

SIR – The sexiest voice, in my opinion, belonged to the Dutch lady who read out the airport weather reports for Dutch and southern UK airports. When I was a co-pilot the captain couldn’t understand why it took me so long to get the weather.

Capt Jim Passmore
Trebetherick, Cornwall

SIR – Apparently, the young lady at RAF Hullavington who used to man the navigational equipment was known as “The Angel of Hullavington”.

So alluring was her voice that pilots would divert miles off course to place themselves within range of her equipment, providing an excuse to call her for a navigational fix.

Neville Cullingford
Eastleigh, Hampshire

Globe and Mail:

Konrad Yakabuski

Can this captain right Quebec’s ship?

Irish Times:

Sir, – Further to “Lucinda Creighton unveils new party and calls for a ‘reboot’ of Ireland” (January 2nd), when did anyone under the age of 30, and without the word “administrator” as part of their job title, last “reboot” anything?

So much for a modern Ireland. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 8.

Sir, – May I suggest a name for Lucinda Creighton and Co’s proposed new political party – “Right On”? –Yours, etc,



Co Cork.

Sir, –In a democracy, one cannot be compelled to vote against one’s conscience on major moral issues, such as abortion, gay marriage or euthanasia. Enda Kenny should apologise to Lucinda Creighton, et al, and invite them back into the fold. He will need them. – Yours, etc,


Model Farm,


Sir, –I was intrigued by the launch of Lucinda’s new party. It appears to be a case of “out with the old, and back in with the old”. It should make for amusing reading, if nothing else. – Yours, etc,



Co Mayo.

Sir, – Lucinda Creighton referred on radio to our “toxic whip system”. Perhaps her new political party should be called “The Whippersnappers”? – Yours, etc,



Dublin 16.

Sir, – I wish Lucinda Creighton well in her efforts to form a new political party, but my heart is full of trepidation when I think of the Greens and the PDs. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – I am curious, as we seem to be on a journey in this country to replicate all the most undesirable aspects of American culture, as to whether tea was served at the launch of the “new” political party in Dublin last Friday. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – Much of what Bill Bailey writes about footpaths in the UK is very true (December 22nd). There are, however, two quibbles with what he says.

By the end of the second World War, in the UK, under emergency orders thousands of paths had been closed, obstructed, or ploughed up, with little public protest. The government of the day became so concerned that in 1949 it passed the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act. This Act required each (then) county council, rural district council and parish council to compile and keep a definitive, up-to-date map of the paths in their areas. This is where the public began to guard seriously their access rights. A newer and definitive map was published under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. These Acts were a major factor in how rights of way are viewed in the two countries.

Most Irish country people of 70 years or so can clearly remember dozens of paths and laneways. These took the form of Mass paths, church paths, fishermen’s paths and well paths, now mostly gone. Our forefathers were not idiots and had no intention of walking five miles if they could use a path and do the journey in two. – Yours, etc,



Co Wexford.

Sir, – Michael J Donnelly (December 27th) claims Terence O’Neill, the prime minister of Northern Ireland during the nascent campaign for civil rights in the 1960s, initiated no reforms until after the second civil rights demonstration which took place in Derry on October 5th, 1968.

This is true but there were sinister forces at work at that time which prevented O’Neill from initiating reform. The Irish Times of January 15th, 1965, reported on the visit of taoiseach Sean Lemass to Belfast, who had been invited by O’Neill to Stormont for talks. Both Mr Lemass and O’Neill were confronted by the Rev Ian Paisley and some supporters who rejected any dealings with Dublin.

A further report by Fergus Pyle in The Irish Times of December 12th, 1967, notes taoiseach Jack Lynch, on a visit to Stormont for talks with O’Neill, suffered a similar fate when a mob led the Rev Paisley again denounced O’Neill’s attempts at cross-border talks.

Following the formation of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association in 1967, O’Neill, prepared to consider mild legislative change, looked favourably on the introduction of more moderate policies which included “one man one vote” for all in local elections. This political accommodation of Catholics was regarded as appeasement to civil rights demands and enraged the virulently anti-Catholic shadowy figures in loyalism.

Calls were made for O’Neill to resign.

Although not yet prepared to fall on his own sword, sinister forces within loyalism were about to apply the final push. If political pressure alone would not force O’Neill to stand aside, then a few strategically placed bombs might, especially if republicans were believed to be responsible.

A decision was taken by a coalition of loyalist organisations to attack Belfast’s electricity and water supplies in an attempt to cause maximum political damage to O’Neill, who would be unlikely to survive the consequences if these bombings were shown to be the work of republicans.

The first target was Castlereagh electricity substation, which was bombed by members of the UVF and the Ulster Protestant Volunteers.

The following day Rev Ian Paisley’s newspaper the Protestant Telegraph reported, “This is the first act of sabotage perpetrated by the IRA since the murderous campaign of 1956 . . . the sheer professionalism of the act indicates the work of the well-equipped IRA. This latest act of terrorism is an ominous indication of what lies ahead for Ulster . . . Loyalists must now appreciate the struggle that lies ahead and the supreme sacrifice that will have to be made in order that Ulster will remain Protestant”.

Four days later the loyalist co-conspirators changed targets and, confident that the IRA was the primary suspect, bombed Belfast’s main water supply at Dunadry and two weeks later another explosion destroyed the pipeline between the Silent Valley reservoir in the Mourne Mountains and Belfast.

A further four explosions on pipelines carrying water supplies from Lough Neagh to Belfast quickly followed, all reportedly carried out by the IRA.

O’Neill knew he could no longer survive and resigned just days later. O’Neill later said the explosions “blew me out of office”.

The deaths, injuries and appalling suffering inflicted on thousands of innocent people in the following decades could have been prevented if O’Neill had been supported by moderate unionism. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 16.

Sir, – 2015 is the centenary of the Armenian genocide that cost the lives of up to a million Armenian men, women and children.

What makes the Armenian genocide so important is that because it was so “successful” from an Ottoman Turk point of view it became a sort of blueprint for further acts of genocide in the 20th century. Infamously, Adolf Hitler is reported to have said: “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”

The relative success of the Armenian genocide encouraged others, including Hitler, Idi Amin, Pol Pot, and the Rwandan government to carry out further acts of genocide.

Acknowledgement and recognition by the international community that the atrocities committed against the Armenian people between 1915 and 1922 amounted to genocide is vital in order to ensure justice and accountability for the Armenian people, and to strengthen global jurisprudence toward preventing further acts of genocide.

France, Russia, the US congress and the European Parliament have already recognised the Armenian genocide but many other countries, including Ireland and the UK, have yet to do so.

The present Turkish government must be pressurised by the international community into accepting that its predecessors perpetrated genocide against the Armenian people. Turkey has aspirations to membership of the European Union, and Europe needs Turkey as a positive bridge toward the Middle East and toward Islamic communities.

The European Union should make it clear that recognition of the Armenian genocide must be a prerequisite for EU membership, and perhaps lead to EU membership for both Turkey and Armenia. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – The psychologist Stephen Hart, a world authority on risk assessment tools and the co-developer of a number of the main risk assessment tools in current use, regularly reiterated the fact that these tools can only estimate risk; they cannot predict specific events and do not claim to do so.

I have contributed to the early introduction of risk assessments in both prisons and mental health settings through the clinical administration of formal, structured, risk assessment measures. One clear but often unacknowledged benefit in general mental health settings is that such structured measures can help to give a more accurate and often a lower estimate of a service user’s risk; thus in a number of cases it has supported long-term service users having greater periods (and/or degrees) of independent living than they had previously enjoyed.

Had such measures existed in the 1960s, they would have contributed significantly to lower numbers of people being assessed to needless detention in psychiatric institutions at a time when we had one of the highest rates of institutionalisation in the world.

This State could benefit by going in the direction that Northern Ireland has by introducing forensic psychiatric community teams to areas throughout the country as the focus should be on building upon current local risk-management strategies that would benefit from more accessible, integrated specialist knowledge and resources. The introduction of such teams would go some way in helping reduce the frequency of violent incidences perpetrated by the small minority of mental health service users who engage in violence at a level that may lead to very significant harm. Unfortunately there are no (and may never be) “crystal balls” to predict or “magic wands” to prevent a number of terrible events; such extreme violence as seen in Cobh will still occasionally occur, with devastating consequences for those affected. I send my condolences to the Greaney family at this very sad time. – Yours, etc,


Forensic Clinical


Letterkenny, Co Donegal.

Sir, – May I remind your readers that in 2005 Israel withdrew all its military and civilians from Gaza. Israel’s border with Gaza was such that many Gazans crossed over into Israel to work on a daily basis.

Then several years later the terrorist group Hamas took over Gaza. The Hamas charter calls for the worldwide destruction of Jews.

Since 2005 over 13,000 rockets have been fired into Israel, together with many Hamas terrorists infiltrating Israel.

As a result, Israel closed its borders with Gaza, only allowing humanitarian aid in and people with medical emergencies out so that they can be hospitalised in Israel. Israel has no control over Gaza’s border with Egypt. Egypt could have provided all Gaza’s needs but it also has chosen to close its border most of the time to protect its citizens.

Your correspondents, Dermot O’Rourke and D Flinter (December 31st), offer no suggestions as to how Israel should respond.

So I ask them and your other readers, what would the Republic of Ireland do if it were subject to thousands of rockets requiring its citizens to seek shelter often with only 15 seconds warning; and what would they do to prevent terrorists infiltrating their homeland? – Yours, etc,




Sir, – Your correspondent Anne Strahan (December 31st) cannot get her head around John Fitzgerald’s problem with foxhunting (December 29th). I suspect that the vast majority of people, by the same token, cannot get their heads around the fact that some human beings think it’s okay to hound and kill wild animals for “sport”, even if they do, as she says, “clean their horses and dress themselves appropriately”.

She says that the fox is a pest that kills lambs and chickens, and that hounds are behaving naturally in pursuing them and tearing them apart, but in fact they are trained by the hunters to hunt and kill as a pack, and are “blooded” during the cub-hunting season on young and inexperienced fox cubs.

Statistics available on fox predation belie claims by hunters that the fox is a pest. A pilot study undertaken by the Department of Agriculture’s veterinary lab (1992) showed predation (including all kinds of predators) and misadventure (accidents, drownings, etc) combined accounted for 5 per cent of all lamb mortalities, while the British ministry of agriculture found much the same, citing predation at a mere 1 per cent, adding that it did not consider foxes to be a significant factor in lamb mortality.

Meanwhile, eminent zoologistDr James Fairley (NUI Galway), author of An Irish Beast Book, states: “A great deal of the many allegations of lamb killing are based on insufficient or even non-existent evidence. When interviewing farmers, I found that in some cases, a dead, unwounded animal or the mere disappearance of a lamb were attributed to the work of the fox.”

The fox is under constant persecution, much of it utterly cruel and barbaric, based on scant or little evidence of its threat to farm livestock, as the statistics show, but like every myth, it continues to be perpetuated, mostly by recreational hunters in whose interest it is to demonise the fox. Foxhunting has been outlawed for the past 10 years by our neighbours in England, Scotland and Wales, while hare coursing has also been banned in these jurisdictions and in Northern Ireland, leaving Ireland as a last outpost for barbarism, thanks to successive governments that have consistently turned a blind eye to the cruelty. – Yours, etc,


Irish Council Against

Blood Sports,

PO Box 88,

Mullingar, Co Westmeath.

Sir, – The falling price of petrol and diesel is to be welcomed. However the mechanics as to how, why and when these reductions occur is often the subject of justifiable complaint and debate, not only in this newspaper but many other media outlets.

The disconnect between a reduction of the barrel price and the price at the pump is the stuff of mystery. On New Year’s Eve, I passed my local petrol station and noted another welcome decline of some three cent per litre. This morning in passing the same station the price had risen again by two cent.

Somehow in the passing hours through the new year the fuel held in the tanks under the forecourt had acquired a new cost and value which just had to be passed on to the public.

Perhaps some kind gentleman from the fuel industry might explain this miracle of economics. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – Further to “Jack’s the lad, while Sophie is top girl in Irish Times baby names chart” (Front Page, January 2nd), whatever happened to Jill? – Yours, etc,


Harold’s Cross, Dublin 6W.

Sir, – I see the “Francis effect” has yet to create a wave of Franks and Frankies. But it’s still early days. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 8.

Irish Independent:

Letters to the Editor

Published 05/01/2015 | 02:30

The Famine Memorial on the north quay in Dublin. Niall Carson/PA
The Famine Memorial on the north quay in Dublin. Niall Carson/PA

I agree with David McGuinness’s disgust at the report that British TV station Channel 4 has commissioned a sitcom on the topic of the Great Famine (‘Famine is no laughing matter’, Letters, Irish Independent January 3).

  • Go To

Defending its decision to commission this show, a Channel 4 spokesperson said that “brilliant humour can come out of times of terrible hardship.”

If this proposed comedy on the starvation and forced emigration in coffin ships of more that two million peasant Irish people draws sufficient audiences to please advertisers, perhaps Channel 4 might consider doing a trilogy of comedies on related themes.

Suggested topics to be considered might include the Holocaust, in which six million Jews were incinerated, or one on Aids.

Think of the laughs to be had on the Aids epidemic, in which almost 78 million people have been infected with the HIV virus and about 39 million people have died. Globally, 35 million people were living with HIV at the end of 2013.

Indeed, why not one on a current topic, say the Ebola outbreak? Just think of the “brilliant humour” that could be engendered by live interviews with Ebola victims on their deathbeds.

Tom Cooper

Templeogue, Dublin 6

Scraping the barrel in ratings war

The response of the British Government of the day to the great 19th century Famine in Ireland was so shamefully inadequate that no words can ever appropriately cover its grotesque and cynical nature.

That a British broadcaster, Channel 4, is now developing a sitcom set during that horrific, anti-Irish travesty and calling it ‘Hunger’ is both racially insensitive and extremely insulting. The Famine is no more suitable sitcom material than the Holocaust – this project should be nipped in the bud.

Is there no low to which some broadcasters are prepared to stoop in their ratings wars? Imagine a German broadcaster developing a sitcom called ‘Gas’ and basing it on the Nazi death camps.

No matter how harmless sounding the justification, it won’t deflect one iota from the fact that this proposed Famine sitcom, ‘Hunger’, is just about as a sick as it gets.

Eugene Cassidy

Co Cavan

Hold a poll on compulsory Irish

Ian O Doherty’s article on the Irish language (Irish Independent, January 1) reflects the thoughts of many citizens of the Republic over the years.

The Language Freedom Movement of the 1960s, a leading member of which was the playwright John B Keane, were holding a meeting in the Mansion House when Gaeilgeoirs came running in and pulled the Tricolor off the speaker’s table.

The message was that if you are not in favour of compulsory Irish, you are not truly Irish.

Over the years I have spoken to some members of the major parties, with the exception of Sinn Fein, who said they would like to see a change on the issue from compulsion to consent. However, they say such a proposal would cost their parties seats in certain constituencies.

Therefore, it seems to me that we should take the issue away from party politics and let it go to the people by way of a referendum. If the majority wants the status quo to remain, I, for one, will accept that decision and stay chiuin (silent) from then on.

Tony Moriarty

Harold’s Cross, Dublin 6

Lucinda has missed the boat

I can’t help but wonder if Lucinda Creighton has missed the boat in her decision to launch a new political party within the next eight weeks – or was that the launch, I’m not too sure?

It reminds me a little of the launch on New Year’s Day of UTV Ireland. After a five-minute promotional video, we were treated to an hour-long episode of a programme set on a Yorkshire farm. UTV Ireland won’t be in top gear for a few months when some of its new programmes commence, seemingly a bit like Lucinda’s as yet unnamed party.

Last year when I attended the “monster rally” in the RDS there was an undoubted air of anticipation and energy in the hall that something exciting was afoot. However, since then we have had the local elections and the marked increase in support for Independents and Sinn Fein.

While large numbers of people have turned away from the large parties such as Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, they now consider Independents to be a viable alternative.

The present support for Independents will not necessarily move to a new party unless they are offering something very radical which people can identify with. So far I don’t see much evidence of this with Lucinda’s new party. I believe there was a definite appetite for a new party this time last year but things have moved on since then.

I assume RTE and TV3 aren’t worried by UTV Ireland yet. Similarly, I suspect that the current politicians of whatever hue aren’t too worried about Lucinda’s new party. Let’s hope we get something more substantial in eight weeks’ time, otherwise I, for one, will be waving goodbye to this particular boat.

Tommy Roddy

Salthill, Co Galway

The tide went out long ago, Lucinda Creighton, and you have been left adrift without a paddle. The people have no interest in another blustering political party which would deliver more of the same, but with perhaps a softer voice.

The time has come and gone when the electorate naively depended on self-serving politicians to do the right things for them. We’re all broke now, and to have more boring, flashy political rhetoric shoved down our throats by the well-suited and booted, is to add insult to injury.

Robert Sullivan

Bantry, Co Cork

Those looking for a name for Lucinda Creighton’s new party should note, as Enda Kenny may ruefully reflect, that the name of the former FG junior minister contains letters which spell out “Chagrin Uncoiled”.

Dr John Doherty

Gaoth Dobhair, Co Donegal

Solar power is the future

A nuclear power station is one of Energy Minister Alex White’s suggested clean energy solutions for little Ireland (Irish Independent December 31). In mid 2005, a similar proposition was put forward to combat increasing energy costs. The idea is as regressive and repulsive today as it was then.

For over 40 years, communities living near the east coast were in constant dread of leakages or sabotage at Sellafield, a nuclear plant not even on this island.

Despite dozens of huge wind turbines and pylons erected, efforts on marine energy, bio-fuel crops and extensions to National Grid, how have we fared in reaching our energy targets over the past 10 years?

Of all energy sources, from fossil to renewable, solar is the most sustainable, inexhaustible, pure and consistent means of power.

The sun will perpetually bombard us with 9,000 times more power than is needed to run every car, heat all homes and energise every electrical gadget and factory on this planet.

All Europe’s requirements could be provided by lining just 0.2pc of the Sahara Desert with concentrated solar power technology – costing, maybe, €50bn – according to Professor Anthony Patt (Irish Independent, September 24, 2009).

This is not a colossal sum compared to the €14bn the Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA) is prepared to spend, just to meet 40pc of all electricity needs for renewable sources by 2020!

Rather than saddling each country with targets, a European Union Solar Energy Company should be established to administer the development of and operate an inter-Euro Grid supplying power to all members at a fixed price.

We cannot afford another Irish Water fiasco; time, money and creation of jobs are precious – our educated youth are leaving in their thousands!

James Gleeson

Thurles, Co Tipperary


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