Cleaning

10 January 2015 Cleaning

Mary a little better though she could manage to get up for breakfast. Clear out cupboards in kitchen annex.

Obituary:

Lance Percival – obituary

Lance Percival was an actor and revue performer known for his ‘instant calypso’ on TW3 and appearances in British comic films

Lance Percival, actor

Lance Percival in an episode of ‘Jason King’ Photo: REX

Lance Percival, the comedian and singer who has died aged 81, was a regular cast member of Britain’s first topical satire show, That Was The Week That Was, and a stalwart over many years of British comedy caper movies.

TW3’s deviser Ned Sherrin plucked Percival from playing guitar at the Blue Angel Club in Mayfair, and during the show’s brief but hugely successful outing on the BBC in 1962-63, Percival featured in political sketches and performed a regular “instant calypso” inspired by the week’s events — in the manner of the West Indian singer Cy Grant.

Gangly, with an expressive, snaggle-toothed face and a good line in funny voices, Percival was the Tory leader Sir Alec Douglas-Home to Willy Rushton’s Harold Macmillan. He was also memorable as a civil servant detecting sexual innuendoes in bureaucratese in a 1963 sketch spoofing the controversy over the junior minister Tam Galbraith beginning a letter to the mandarin John Vassall (whose homosexuality had been used to blackmail him into spying for the Soviet Union) with the words “My Dear Vassall”.

In his calypso slot Percival would ask audience members to suggest possible subjects and would then launch into improvised topical calypsos, of which one, Shame and Scandal in the Family, an updated version of a calypso standard, reached No 37 in the charts in 1965.

Percival recorded several other novelty songs with George Martin at Parlophone, including The Beetroot Song (“If you like beetroot I’ll be true to you”, 1963) and The Maharajah of Brum (1967).

After TW3’s demise, two of the show’s writers, Peter Tinniswood and David Nobbs, created an unsuccessful television sitcom for Percival, Lance at Large (1964). More successfully, The Lance Percival Show, a sketch-variety format, ran for two series on BBC One (1965-66).

But Percival mainly became known as a jobbing actor on television and in film comedies such as Carry On Cruising (1962), into which he was drafted at the last moment to play a bilious ship’s cook by its penny-pinching producer, Peter Rogers, after Carry On regular Charles Hawtrey had the temerity to ask for a pay rise. Later Percival appeared in the Frankie Howerd vehicles Up Pompeii! (1971), Up the Chastity Belt (1971) and Up the Front (1972).

Lance Percival (second from right) and other members of the TW3 line-up in 1963 (GETTY/HULTON ARCHIVE)

John Lancelot Blades Percival was born at Sevenoaks, Kent, on July 26 1933. His parents sent him to Sherborne, where he became interested in music. He entered show business with a calypso group, and by the 1950s was performing in London clubs and on television shows. In 1960 he starred with Kenneth Williams and Sheila Hancock in Peter Cook’s stage revue One Over the Eight (for which he was understudied by Ken Loach).

He had made his (uncredited) screen debut in Three Men in a Boat in 1956, and went on to appear in more than 30 films. He had cameo roles in The V.I.P.s in 1963 and The Yellow Rolls-Royce (1964). In 1970 he appeared alongside Julie Andrews in the musical film Darling Lili and in There’s a Girl in My Soup, starring Peter Sellers and Goldie Hawn.

Lance Percival (left) with Kenneth Williams and Kenneth Connor in Carry On Cruising (REX)

He provided the voice of both Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr in the 1965 television cartoon series The Beatles, and that of the character “Old Fred” in the Beatles’ animated film Yellow Submarine (1968).

In late 1970, however, Percival was involved in a bad car accident in which he nearly lost his sight in one eye. Despite this, he appeared in several more films, including the Up Pompeii! series and similar British comedies of the period, among them Our Miss Fred (1972) with Danny La Rue, and Confessions from a Holiday Camp (1977).

He made a variety of television appearances both as an actor and personality, including in the series Up the Workers (1974-76); The Kenneth Williams Show (1976); and Noel’s House Party in the 1990s. On Radio 4 he was a regular panellist on Ian Messiter’s Many a Slip in the 1960s, and on Just a Minute in the 1980s. He also published two books of verse, Well-Versed Dogs (1985) Well-Versed Cats (1986).

Throughout his career, Percival also worked as a scriptwriter, contributing more than 100 episodes to the 1970s Thames Television game show Whodunnit.

Lance Percival (right) and Lord Montagu of Beaulieu (centre) on the London to Brighton Car Run, 1969 (REX)

In later life he launched a new career as an after-dinner speaker and a writer of humorous speeches for executives. “They always come back for more,” he told a friend. “They have to maintain their reputation as wits.”

Lance Percival was married but divorced, and is survived by a son.

Lance Percival, born July 26 1933, died January 6 2015

Guardian:

Accident And Emergency Figures Show Worst Performance In 10 Years
Outside the A&E department at St Thomas’ hospital London. ‘The NHS is too vital an institution to be left either to the binary war-rhetoric of politicians, or to the profit-driven private sector,’ writes Pen Keyte. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty

You report (Cameron defends NHS in worst week for A&E, 7 January) the current intense difficulties in the NHS and the statement from the King’s Fund chief executive that “the NHS is fundamentally broken”. Earlier, Rowena Mason (Report, 1 January) highlighted the impact of the smaller political parties (Ukip, SNP, Greens) on the outcome of this May’s general election. She did not mention the National Health Action party (NHA), which is a national response to the long-term political failures that have inflicted this chaos and damage on the NHS.

We and many others vigorously back this newcomer to electoral politics, which brings these failures into focus: the waste, mismanagement and dishonesty of the major political parties. The NHS tops the political agenda in the minds of many voters. In order to attract votes, the big parties pay lip-service to its importance while simultaneously allowing it to be crushed by privatisation, ruinous private finance initiatives, harmful marketisation and dangerous fragmentation. The Tories and Lib Dems are clearly disingenuous in their claims to treasure the NHS, having effectively abolished it with the Health and Social Care Act. While the Labour party is focusing its campaign on the NHS, their track record is not reassuring.

The NHA is not just about the NHS in isolation. To pay for our medical care we need a strong, balanced and stable economy. Our health depends on social justice and a healthy environment and lifestyle. The NHS is badly served by the current big party system. It would flourish better in a healthier democracy, with proportional representation and more parties with focused agendas, among which the NHA has a vital role to play.

In Oxford West and Abingdon (Conservative majority: 176) there is a winnable seat and an excellent NHA candidate, who joins 11 NHA party candidates standing in other constituencies. These provide a unique opportunity to secure the presence of one or more MPs in parliament whose election would be symbolic of the public’s desire for a better political system and the need to truly protect the NHS, as a priceless national asset, from careless politicians and corporate predators. This is part of the current wider developments in new and alternative forms of progressive political expression. For the first time in decades, we and others can vote for a party that really matters to everyone.
Prof Chris Redman Emeritus professor of obstetric medicine, Iain Chalmers Health services researcher, Prof Klim Mcpherson Emeritus professor of epidemiology, Prof John S Yudkin Emeritus professor of medicine, Dr Oliver Ormerod Consultant cardiologist, Dr Peggy Frith Retired consultant opthalmologist, Dr David McCoy Senior lecturer in primary care and public health

• As is shown by the coincidence of the moving account of 24 hours in an A&E doctor’s life, with the withdrawal of Circle from its contract to manage Hinchingbrooke hospital (the guardian.com, 9 January), the NHS is too vital an institution to be left either to the binary war-rhetoric of politicians, or to the profit-driven private sector. Dr Clive Peedell, co-leader of the National Health Action party, flagged as long ago as 2013 that Circle would be likely to walk away from Hinchingbrooke once it had put £5m of its own money in. Once again, he predicted, the NHS would pick up the pieces, and local people would suffer.
Pen Keyte
Oxford

• NHS staff are working flat out to cope with unprecedented demands for care. More staff and A&E facilities in the NHS are not the only solution. Improving the “flow” of people into and out of A&E can potentially provide a more sustainable long-term solution, at no extra cost. All too often A&E has been looked at in isolation rather than exploring the root causes of A&E delays. By “flow” we are referring to approaches used widely by other sectors – such as airports – that manage high customer throughputs and have to coordinate multiple processes to get people to the right destination.

The Health Foundation has supported a programme at both South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust and Sheffield Teaching Hospital NHS Trust, examining flow and resulting in steps being taken to address the inefficiencies preventing patients from getting care promptly. This work has helped to keep waits for patients down, improve quality of care and reduce length of stay in hospital. Yet these “flow” techniques are not used widely across the NHS – in A&E or in general practices that are also experiencing high demands. They should now be. One way forward is simple training for frontline staff in “flow” techniques, and support from management to implement them.
Dr Jennifer Dixon
Chief executive, The Health Foundation

• You fail to mention the shortage of hospital beds in England (Editorial, 8 January). EU figures for hospital beds per 1,000 population for all specialities are: Germany 8.2, France 6.6, EU average 4.9 and the UK 3.3. Within the UK England has 2.7, which is only 55% of the EU average. No wonder hospitals are bursting at the seams. Beds may be a four-letter word, but it needs to be shouted out aloud.
Morris Bernadt
London

• As Richard Adams piece shows (Report, 9 January), there is a great demand from students wishing to study medicine and a shortage of suitably qualified British doctors, due in part to emigration. So we import doctors for A&E from Spain while exporting them to Australia. Demoralised doctors seeing increasing pressures put on them do not apply for A&E jobs or for partnerships in general practice, where bureaucracy prevents them from concentrating on patients. In addition, newly qualified doctors will shortly be faced with student debts of £45,000 for tuition and a similar amount for maintenance during their five-year course.

I hear on the grapevine that some students are planning to emigrate in the hope of avoiding repayments, since it is difficult to trace those who have no UK income. This could be avoided if there were to be an incentive scheme, rescinding part of the debt for, say, each of the first five years that a newly qualified doctor works for the NHS. The army have run this type of scheme for many years with great success.
Dr Margaret Safranek
London

• Professor Willett, NHS England’s current director of acute care, is quoted as saying that “We now have a ‘right now’ society; a population that expects to have immediate or very rapid solutions to their queries” (A&E crisis: experts diagnose the cause, 7 January). The point the professor is either missing or ignoring is that things used to be just that; if you felt ill a generation ago you could visit the GP, during surgery hours, wait a while, then be seen. Now, you have to call for an appointment – the end of next week if you’re lucky, or a couple of days if it’s urgent. That’s one of the main reasons for the current problems in A&E; yet if a top bureaucrat is unable to see that, there’s little hope of a solution anytime soon.
Charles Sawyer
London

Your editorial (5 January) shows a complete misunderstanding of the issues surrounding powering the country. In 2010, we inherited a legacy of underinvestment in the energy sector, with a number of power stations due to close by 2020 and ageing network infrastructure, a legacy that put our energy security at risk. To safeguard our energy supplies, we are implementing a long-term plan, though you appear to be totally unaware of this. Our radical reforms have stimulated more than £45bn of investment, mostly in renewable electricity.

You dismiss our capacity market, yet this has been extremely successful in securing electricity supply at the lowest cost for consumers, as fierce competition in our auction drove costs significantly below predicted levels. As well as unlocking new investment in flexible plants, we are getting the best out of our existing power stations, which provide reliable and cost-effective capacity, as always planned. We are also determined to make homes warmer and more energy-efficient. Average electricity consumption per person is down 10% from five years ago, largely down to schemes like the Green Deal and other regulations making household devices more energy-efficient. Bizarrely, your editorial ends by calling for more state intervention. You clearly do not understand that our reforms of electricity markets, both for clean energy and for securing supply, are significant state interventions in the free market.
Ed Davey MP
Energy and climate change secretary

• Re your article on the fall in oil prices (7 January), one possibility is the opportunity to painlessly raise extra revenue to reduce the deficit or provide additional funding to the health service etc. For the last few years the chancellor has frozen planned rises in fuel tax but now that we are paying 25p less per litre of petrol than we were six months ago, surely no one will notice or mind a 3p rise if the money raised is used effectively.
Brian Westcott
Chester

As a producer who has often taken part in “Classic Album Sundays” (on Nick Drake, Fairport Convention LPs etc), I was pleased to read John Harris’s excellent piece (Vinyl is enjoying an unexpected renaissance, 7 January). I have been boring friends for decades with rants about how analogue sound is so much better than digital, so it is gratifying to witness the surge in appreciation of the black stuff. One problem which Harris addresses only obliquely is that most disc-mastering is now from digital sources. Not only are many master tapes either lost or deteriorated, but most cutting lathes pass the sound through a digital device for adjusting the pitch of the spiral before the signal reaches the stylus. The enthusiasm of the recently converted masks the fact that current LPs – of both new recordings and back catalogue – effectively emit a digital signal, albeit often one of higher quality than that of a CD and certainly far higher than most downloads.

It is tragic that major labels failed to keep metal parts along with master tapes. If anyone found a treasure trove of matrices for classic albums and pressed vinyl from those, that really would be something to celebrate – and to pay those outrageous prices for.
Joe Boyd
Producer, and author, White Bicycles: making music in the 1960s

To the revival of vinyl LPs, along with other so-called out-dated technologies (In a virtual world we cling to what’s real, 31 December 2014), one could add the high-end valve amplifiers that hi-fi buffs so revere, also the valve guitar amps that many guitarists from all genres now use. The overall sound and tone of analogue sound reproduction is so much preferable to that of solid-state amps and the somewhat clinical results of digital processing.
Paul Freeman
Braintree, Essex

Timothy Garton Ash (5 January) asks: “What is Britain”? Any answer should take account of the US postal service, which has just returned to sender in California a parcel inscribed “England – no such country. Please specify a country”. Parcels to Scotland did not suffer this fate.
Roderick Floud
Haddenham, Buckinghamshire

• You report (Puppy Love, 8 January) that ITV’s debut of The Wonder of Britain had been viewed by 1.7m eyeballs. Could you clarify this? Was the programme watched by 850,00 people using both eyes or by 1.7 million people using just one eye?
Francis McCahill
Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire

• When we have the new Magna Carta that Graham Allen MP calls for (Letters, 8 January) will there be a referendum?
Don Selway
Portsmouth

Independent:

As a French citizen and Charlie Hebdo frequent reader, I would like to congratulate M. Brown for his cartoon (front page, 8 January). It’s one of the few cartoons that succeeded in expressing all the horror of the situation while being faithful to the spirit of Charb, Cabu and the others. Man, you got it just right.

Thanks again, Dave!

Thomas Hautesserres
Massy, France

 

Four of France’s greatest living cartoonists, Cabu and Wolinski included, and their editor, have all been murdered in cold blood, for the purported crime of entertaining the people with satirical drawings. Unlike the gunmen, these cartoonists never hid their faces when they expressed their opinions, and this “bravery” means they are now dead. Should we really have to call it bravery, however? Should you have to be brave to publish a satirical drawing? Only,  it seems, when they are about religion.

Unfortunately, this is the inevitable consequence of our unwillingness to confront these attacks on freedom of speech. It entered the public eye with the kickback against Salman Rushdie, and continued with the scandal of the Danish cartoons, where many popular figures stood up and defended the violent protests against them because they attacked the so-called hallowed ground of religion.

For too long we have refused to condemn outrageous acts of attempted censorship, across a variety of countries, simply because their would-be censors claimed the right on religious grounds. It is time we ended that, which is why I call on the press to republish Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons; stand up for Charlie, and show that we will not be silenced by fear.

Benedict Nicholson
London SW14

 

Mark Steel (“If the gunmen were Geordies, would we want an apology from Newcastle?”, 9 January) forgets all the criticism that Catholics, the Catholic church, and the Catholic hierarchy came in for during the height of the Troubles. In those days commentators like himself thought the church able to control extremism, just by condemning the atrocities carried out by the IRA.

Ron Bird
Pinner, Greater London

 

The cry of “Allahu Akbar!” that the killers raised as they stormed the building is the same cry that extremists have been shouting as they behead Christians and Yazidi in Iraq, bomb churches in Nigeria and separate out and kill those who can’t say a Muslim prayer in parts of Kenya.

Of course extremism can be found in any religion, and Muslims can be on the receiving end of that too. But the stark reality is that in the report released yesterday by Open Doors, which tracks trends, scale and causes of persecution against Christians globally, 40 out of the worst 50 countries show Islamic extremism as the main driver of persecution – the vast majority of it going unnoticed by the media.

Something closer to home, like the atrocity in Paris, is particularly shocking. But we can expect more of it unless we fight extremism as an international community much more intentionally than we are now doing. It’s rising fast and affects all of us – those of no faith, those with a different faith, and ordinary Muslims who are as appalled by the attacks as everyone else. Surely we must recognise we are in extraordinary days and act accordingly?

Lisa Pearce
CEO of Open Doors UK & Ireland, Oxfordshire

 

Why is it that ridiculous religious extremists of all types believe that their own particular deity will be offended or perturbed by a little gentle (or not so gentle) mocking by journalists, cartoonists and others? Surely any deity worth believing in would have a sense of humour, in particular, a sense of humour about his, her  or its self?

Professor Brian S Everitt
Professor Emeritus
King’s College London

 

When Islamic migrants arrive we bend over backwards to make them feel at home but we also create a sense of entitlement which implies that they need not conform to our ways of life. Muslims insist we behave respectfully in their countries but do not reciprocate: in the West, for example, hiding one’s identity in a public place is not admirable – it is rude.

As a Christian cleric I believe the correct reaction to the Parisian outrage is for every Western newspaper to produce cartoons satirising all major religions, including Christianity and Islam.

Rev Dr John Cameron
St Andrews

 

Being afraid to cause offence makes our values toothless. Free speech is never frightened speech.

Collin Rossini
Dovercourt, Essex

 

There’s no way to avoid ‘booking fees’

I was pleased to see in Radar (3 January) that The Independent will continue its campaign against booking and other fees charged by performing arts venues.

Recently a band I follow performed in my town in a municipally run venue, but when I went to buy tickets, 10 per cent was added to the ticket price, even though I was at the box office tendering cash. When I asked if there was a way of not paying the surcharge I was told that that was possible by using a charge card I hadn’t heard of, which one preloads with money. Pointing out that my cash was preloaded with money didn’t help, and I walked away in anger.

Pretty well the whole of the retail trade manages to sell items at the marked price without adding a retail, handling or stocking fee, or a “voluntary” charitable donation. I know I would attend more live events if I did not have to traverse the surge of anger I experience on seeing added fees, and it is a shame that artists don’t do more to exercise pressure against this practice which is alienating their audiences.

Dennis Leachman
Reading

 

Woeful careers advice for the young

Given that young people are receiving inadequate careers advice, it is no surprise that we are seeing the number of people undertaking Government-backed apprenticeships fall (“MPs attack rise of ‘ill-equipped’ careers advisers in schools”, 8 January). The worrying evidence that has emerged of schools being forced to train receptionists as careers advisers is supported by research we commissioned from YouGov. It found that nearly two-thirds of 18-24-year olds at secondary school or college have not received careers advice on paid apprenticeships.

To reverse this worrying trend, we need a full commitment from the Government for schools to be required to build stronger links with businesses that can offer young people career advice.

It is logical that the future employers of teenagers have a role in signalling to young people where future opportunities might lie. Ultimately, offering the future workforce good careers advice is an essential component of a dynamic, successful economy.

Jackie Bedford
Chief Executive, Step Ahead
London EC1

 

In 1970 I was a 16-year-old in my last year of school and we had a half-hour lesson once a week entitled Careers. This was useful and explored various options and gave an outline of various jobs. We also had several visits to various workplaces to see at first-hand what work was like. Just after Easter we were interviewed individually by the careers master and someone from Youth Employment Services to try to ensure that we were placed in jobs in line with our abilities and preferences. Looking back, this was a good service.

However, the best piece of careers advice we received came from our English teacher who had been a bricklayer before becoming a teacher. He told us that life outside the school gates was hard and that we should be in no hurry to leave. I for one very quickly found out that he was right about that!

Jim Allen
Sheffield

 

Will Labour ditch tuition fees?

Sadiq Khan (5 January) is correct that young people are neglected by politicians and is right to want the voting age lowered to 16. But he does not go far enough. Politics needs to be a mandatory subject in secondary schools.

Furthermore, he needs to explain to those young people he so desperately wants to reach out to why his party introduced university tuition fees. He also needs to explain why, if Ed Miliband’s party is so different to Tony Blair’s (as he so claims), they don’t ditch the policy.

Forgive me if I don’t hold my breath.

Ben Saunders
Mitcham, Surrey

 

Hard-working rhetoric

As you rightly say in your editorial of 6 January, all political parties tend to claim to be the true defenders of “hard-working families”.

However, I for one have already decided not to vote for any party that makes this claim, not because I’ve anything against families, even hard-working ones, but because I don’t believe that any party that trots out this tired, tiresome, self-serving cliché deserves support. Whether this will leave me anyone to vote for remains to be seen.

Duncan Howarth
Maidstone, Ken

 

Times:

Sir, Has Peter Franklin visited Grosvenor Farms’ dairy (“Cows that never see light”, Thunderer, Jan 5), or any other dairy farm? Unlike hens, cows do not fall into categories such as free-range, barn or caged. Some farmers keep cows outside, some inside, and in between a spectrum of dairy farming is guided by weather, soil, farm layout and the market for milk.

Is outside optimum? Not always. Cows don’t like wind, wet feet or flies; they go hungry if it’s raining hard as they won’t eat, and at temperatures over 20C they can suffer heat stress. Is inside wrong? Not necessarily. Given the option in trials, many cows choose to be inside and prefer eating from a “canteen”. Virtually no cows have fresh grass year-round and modern housing is open to light, air and sun. The main reason supermarkets don’t label by production system is because there are no defined systems.
Amy Jackson
Nuffield scholar, Can We Learn to Love the Megadairy?, Witney, Oxon
Sir, Peter Franklin is right to highlight the welfare issues associated with factory farming, but it is also important to talk about broader impacts, including the damage caused by the massive concentration of nutrients in a small area and the waste of good vegetable protein that could be consumed by humans.
Natalie Bennett
Leader, Green Party of England and Wales

Sir, In a few months most dairy farmers will let their cows back on the fields after five months indoors. That on this first release these “old girls” run, jump and kick their back legs in the air speaks volumes.
Iain Davidson
Cumnock, Ayrshire

Sir, The time has come for the media to stop presenting atrocities (reports, Jan 8 & 9) with blurred pictures of wounded victims being shot; and failing to show the beheadings and aftermath of bombings, the bodies and body parts, the blood and the maimed. All of this should be seen in its horrible awfulness, uncensored.

By all means provide warnings, but until the public are exposed to the hellish horrors they will regard these as they did the images of the Boston marathon bombing last year — nothing more than a run interrupted by a bang and cloud of smoke.

Alongside this must be the uncensored images of the dead in the rubble of collateral bombing rather than just ruined buildings.

Only when the whole horror is presented in its graphic raw truth will there be an informed public to insist that governments and leaders bring these horrors to an end, now.
Douglas Martyn
Sandilands, Lanarkshire

Sir, David Aaronovitch’s assertion (Opinion, Jan 8) that “for the first time since the defeat of fascism a group of citizens were massacred because of what they had drawn, said or published” betrays a selective memory. On April 23, 1999, Nato — on our behalf — bombed the Belgrade HQ of RTS, Serbian State Broadcasting, killing 13 members of the media.

This attack was condemned by journalists’ organisations but the prime minister, Tony Blair, and Nato described RTS as an “entirely legitimate target”. It is never right to attack journalists, even if you disagree with the editorial position of their media outlet. We should uphold this defence of freedom, not apply it selectively.
Dr David Lowry
Stoneleigh, Surrey

Sir, David Aaronovitch said that those who don’t like the “deal for living together” should “go somewhere else”. Such a view, aside from being incendiary in tone, is proliferating the murderous ignorance that we are all trying to fight. Defending free speech means defending the rights of even those who say that such a freedom should not exist. Suggesting that people who think differently should effectively be exiled is an illogical intellectual tyranny.
Nabil Hanafi
London N1

Sir, In the wake of the Paris murders, David Cameron stated that Britain must stand up “against this threat to our values — free speech, the rule of law, democracy”.

Stirring words, but there is more than a whiff of hypocrisy when, less than two months ago, his home secretary, Theresa May, banned Julien Blanc, the so-called pick-up artist, from entering Britain on the grounds that it would not be “conducive to the public good.”

Britain is a mature democracy, with a deep-rooted tradition of satire. Surely we are robust enough to handle the scarcely threatening Julien Blanc and others who say things we don’t like. Mr Blanc’s exclusion is one of many examples of UK governments ducking the awkward question on free speech.
John Hesketh
Sheffield

Sir, Those politicians now blithely championing the “right to offend” may care to look at the Public Order Act 1986 which makes it a crime to use “insulting” words to alarm or distress someone, and the Offensive Behaviour at Football Matches Act 2012 which makes it a crime to be offensive at football matches in Scotland.

An apposite response to the Charlie Hebdo attack would be to repeal these antediluvian measures and restore free speech and the right to offend.
Roger Harris
Barrister, London EC4

Sir, Haras Rafiq of Quilliam (Opinion, Jan 9) states the case very clearly for theological reform within Islam. But such difficult processes demand extraordinary courage, and they often require external leadership. Voltaire was prepared to take that role for European Christianity. When will somebody of equivalent stature emerge to help deliver Islam from the dark ages?
Tom Foulkes
Fleet, Hants

Sir, Surely the decisions by BBC Newsnight and Channel 4 News not to air the Charlie Hebdo cartoon is a reflection of acting with responsibility rather than being cowardly. Should we not be more proud that as a nation we try to avoid flaming the sparks of discontent?
Simon Milton
London SW12

Sir, Elements of our press, exalting in their democratic freedoms, treat immigrants by our own standards and publish smug cartoons insulting all they have, which is what they believe in. I do not take sides but we asked for trouble and we are getting it. If Jesus was portrayed in the way of these cartoons I would hate it but I can take it. They can’t.
Lord Temple-Morris
House of Lords

Sir, Hardly a day goes by without my feelings being deeply hurt, but that’s the price I’m willing to pay for freedom of speech. There can be no serious discussion on any subject if we must restrain ourselves from offending anybody. The media could do a lot to restore sanity.
stephen vizinczey
London SW5

Sir, Had these terrorists been caught alive, they ought to have been jailed and allowed no books except Hobbes and Pascal. They might just have learnt something.
William Sibree
Chart Sutton, Kent

Sir, The Rev Christopher Green (letter, Jan 9) might call for cartoons that mock atheism, but we atheists will just laugh along with him. That is the difference.
Jim McAllister
Dubai

Sir, Islam teaches us to obey the law of the land. The Muslim cleric Anjem Choudary and others like him should be kicked out of Britain as they are destroying our beautiful religion. But at the same time we should realise that these jihadists have been created by America’s actions. We in the West should stop interfering in Islamic countries.
Dr Junaid Rafi
Ipswich

Sir, As a Parachute Regiment student at Fort Benning in the US in the Sixties, I wore British jungle greens, my beret and silver cap badge. As a colour sergeant I was surprised to be continually saluted (letters, Jan 7 & 9). Apparently, from 20 paces my cap badge resembled the US rank badge of “bird colonel”. I always returned the salutes.
Colin J Butcher
Llanfaes, Powys

Sir, I notice that Wallander is back on BBC4 (Viewing guide, Jan 3), with its white subtitles, a problem that it shares with Inspector Montalbano. Older viewers — and there are more of them these days, many with failing sight — much prefer subtitles in black print on a white or yellow background.
Emrys Rees
Luton

Sir, Like Sir Winston Churchill, in 1944, aged 2, I also had a siren suit (“Winnie and the birth of the onesie”, Jan 8). Mine was made by my mother from material unpicked from cast-off clothing in line with the wartime slogan of Make Do and Mend.
Lyn Baily
Bognor Regis

Sir, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that copies of Churchill’s siren suit might be called the Winsie, or even the Win Winsie.
Michael Warshaw
Lond

Sir, Has Peter Franklin visited Grosvenor Farms’ dairy (“Cows that never see light”, Thunderer, Jan 5), or any other dairy farm? Unlike hens, cows do not fall into categories such as free-range, barn or caged. Some farmers keep cows outside, some inside, and in between a spectrum of dairy farming is guided by weather, soil, farm layout and the market for milk.

Is outside optimum? Not always. Cows don’t like wind, wet feet or flies; they go hungry if it’s raining hard as they won’t eat, and at temperatures over 20C they can suffer heat stress. Is inside wrong? Not necessarily. Given the option in trials, many cows choose to be inside and prefer eating from a “canteen”. Virtually no cows have fresh grass year-round and modern housing is open to light, air and sun. The main reason supermarkets don’t label by production system is because there are no defined systems.
Amy Jackson
Nuffield scholar, Can We Learn to Love the Megadairy?, Witney, Oxon
Sir, Peter Franklin is right to highlight the welfare issues associated with factory farming, but it is also important to talk about broader impacts, including the damage caused by the massive concentration of nutrients in a small area and the waste of good vegetable protein that could be consumed by humans.
Natalie Bennett
Leader, Green Party of England and Wales

Sir, In a few months most dairy farmers will let their cows back on the fields after five months indoors. That on this first release these “old girls” run, jump and kick their back legs in the air speaks volumes.
Iain Davidson
Cumnock, Ayrshire

 

on NW8

 

Telegraph:

Black ribbons bind flags at the Elysée Palace in Paris for Thursday’s day of mourning

Black ribbons bind flags at the Elysée Palace in Paris for Thursday’s day of mourning  Photo: AFP/Getty Images

SIR – Not only was the carnage in Paris a brutal attack on freedom of expression in France, it was also an attack against our fundamental democratic values in Britain. Indeed, we are all Parisians today in standing firm and steadfast.

The military-like precision, weaponry deployed and the targeting of pre-selected victims (with the terrorists apparently knowing of the editorial meeting at Charlie Hebdo) are alarmingly ominous.

This makes it necessary for us in Britain to adopt a far more assertively structured stance against militant Islamism here. The Home Secretary’s recent courageous measures to counter British “jihadists” need to be applauded and espoused as the national minimum in our legal armoury.

For their part, British Islamic institutions are still woefully complacent, offering at best no more than rhetoric and well-rehearsed bouts of condemnation. They need to do much better in countering the pernicious ideology of radical Islamism, by reinforcing to young impressionable Muslim minds that the security of this country is paramount and equally by instilling unmitigated pride in British values and national institutions.

Dr Lu’ayy Minwer Al Rimawi
Peterborough

SIR – The latest atrocity by “Islamist” terrorists, this time in Paris, invites us to look at the concept of jihad. It means struggle, fighting. Argument goes on about its two applications – whether within the mind of the believer against sin, or, far more usually in the history of Islam, as armed struggle against the “unbelievers”, which in turn means those refusing “submission or surrender” (Islam) to Allah, the Muslim concept of God.

Jihad, however defined, is a duty of Muslims. Since Western secular democracy is “submission” to the will of the people, it should be obvious that the two views cannot be reconciled, since such secular democratic ideals can only be seen by Islam as blasphemous.

Only when both sides wake up to this can there be any way forward, which, also on both sides, entails overcoming political correctness. Jihad means that a believer cannot be “moderate”. It demands all.

Roger Payne
London NW3

SIR – The attack on Charlie Hebdo could never have happened in Britain. The editors would long ago have been prosecuted under Section 5 of the 1986 Public Order Act on the grounds of publishing material that was likely to cause distress to others.

Professor Martyn Rady
Ramsgate, Kent

SIR – Bestial as the attack on Charlie Hebdo was, the response of the “international community” bears the hallmarks of both public and media selectivity.

How much can the French really value the editorial independence of a weekly magazine that sells fewer than 50,000 copies an issue?

Why weren’t Huw Edwards or James Naughtie despatched by the BBC to Amsterdam when the Dutch film director Theo van Gogh was murdered by a home-grown Muslim extremist?

With Germany’s chancellor and our own Prime Minister telling us that Islamic terrorism has nothing to do with Islam, we shouldn’t be surprised at anything.

Tony Stone

Oxted, Surrey

SIR – Freedom of expression, respect for the rule of law and religious tolerance are cornerstones of a free society, requiring vigilant defence against the perils of totalitarianism, censorship and terrorism.

The publication of material that insults groups or individuals of any faith or none must remain permissible in a free society. That does not, however, mean that such gratuitous behaviour should not be condemned as wholly disrespectful, offensive and provocative.

If such satire is designed to be humorous, I readily confess that I comprehensively fail to understand how.

Philip Duly
Haslemere, Surrey

SIR – The killing in cold blood of 12 people is a heinous crime; and clearly freedom of speech is an important part of democratic life in western Europe. But, as you indicate (Leading article, January 8), some of us avoid publishing things that would cause unnecessary offence to those who have firmly held religious beliefs.

We seem to be living in a society where destructive attacks, often disguised as humour, on anything that hitherto held society together and was the foundation of so much that is good, are becoming more and more prevalent.

But free speech is not just a right; it is a responsibility. Terrorism aims to destroy society from the outside, but, provided we are bold, we can have every hope it will not succeed. However, if we do not regard free speech as a responsibility, we may see our society destroyed from within.

Michael Sparrow
Marple, Cheshire

SIR – They say that the crime was an attack on free speech, but what is free speech?

The Oxford Dictionary says it is: “The right to express any opinions without censorship or restraint.”

English law allows free speech provided it’s not threatening, abusive or insulting, likely to cause harassment, alarm, distress, anxiety or a breach of the peace. That it isn’t racist, indecent, grossly offensive or defamatory. That it doesn’t incite racial, sexual or religious hatred, or glorify or incite terrorism. That it doesn’t contain obscenity, corrupt public morals, outrage public decency or break court restrictions.

We don’t have free speech. We never have done.

David Welch
Margate, Kent

SIR – At what point does freedom of speech become “Islamophobia”?

John Fisher
Cheadle Hulme, Cheshire

SIR – I do not condone what happened in Paris. I wholly support the concept of free speech. But surely it should be tempered by consideration of the consequences and common sense.

Cador Roberts
Woodford Halse, Northamptonshire

SIR – Tomorrow, journalists who dare not re-publish the Charlie Hebdo cartoons will be lecturing Israel on trusting Hamas.

Martin Sewell
Gravesend, Kent

SIR – The start to my day is always made brighter by Matt, but I did wonder how he would address the atrocity in Paris. I was not disappointed. His cartoon yesterday was not only amusing but clearly demonstrated how to stand up to terrorist extremists without fear or favour, as others of his profession around the world have done.

Frazer Walker
Tern Hill, Shropshire

SIR – Expressions of support for freedom of speech by our main political parties are resoundingly hollow. Public discourse in Britain is now entirely governed by what is deemed “acceptable” or “unacceptable” by the liberal-Left mainstream.

Miles Wynn Cato
Ludlow, Shropshire

SIR – David Cameron condemned the Charlie Hebdo murders as an attack on free speech. Is this the same David Cameron, who, a few months ago, advocated bridling the British press?

Nicholas T Oakden
Norwich

Paying for milk
SIR – As Tom Hind, director of agriculture at Tesco (“A fair supermarket deal for British dairy farmers”, Letters, January 7), is well aware, his employer’s promise to pay farmers “a fair price for their milk that is guaranteed to cover the cost of production” only applies to fresh milk sold in Tesco.

On many occasions Mr Hind himself, while working for the National Farmers’ Union, tried to persuade Tesco that this should also apply to milk for all dairy products, for example butter and cheese.

Until all the supermarkets stop driving down the price of milk with own-label imported products, the British dairy industry will struggle.

Derek Lomax
Kendal, Cumbria

Granny’s lore

SIR – My wife’s mother told our daughters: “If you run round the orchard too many times, you will end up with a crab apple.”

Richard Walford
Knowle, Devon

Too Silent Witness

Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in Broadchurch Photo: ITV

SIR – It is not only Broadchurch that I find impossible to follow (report, January 7). This week I watched an episode of Silent Witness and although I turned up the volume, I still could not hear distinctly. Next I watched Lucy Worsley’s history programme Fit to Rule and, although it was on a much lower volume, I didn’t miss a single word uttered by her or her interviewees.

I no longer blame my hearing for not being able to enjoy modern television drama.

David Statham
Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire

Wild oats

SIR – The cereal aisle in my local Sainsbury’s has a subsection flagged “Adult Cereals”. Does this mean that we discover what that Scotsman wears under his kilt or is it that bran and oats (jumbo or otherwise) come in fairly plain packaging?

Eleanor Saunders
Chessington, Surrey


The public treatment of Ched Evans

SIR – The footballer Ched Evans was found guilty of rape, sentenced and served his time in prison (Sport, January 6).

Now he seeks to return to his gainful employment but his team has been bullied into declining his services.

Are we as a society saying that no convicted criminal can ever work again? Or is it just footballers, or perhaps just rapists?

Once a judge has handed down a sentence, that is the end of it: we cannot continue to persecute past offenders.

R T Britnell
Canterbury, Kent

SIR – Ched Evans and Geoffrey Boycott have both been tried, convicted and punished for the abuse of women, although both maintain their innocence.

One remains universally vilified and unable to ply his trade, while the other is feted by many, with demands that he be knighted.

The two crimes have many similarities but the gulf in public attitude towards them is considerable.

Roger Page
Peterborough

The high cost of sending criminals to court

SIR – I read with interest that Richard Monkhouse, chairman of the Magistrates’ Association, was concerned that police were giving too many offenders a “slap on the wrist” instead of sending them to court (report, January 7).

Since courts are now so reluctant to imprison people, especially for first offences, he evidently thinks it is the court’s duty to administer the slap on the wrist. But this incurs all the associated court costs and legal fees paid from the public purse solely for the benefit of those employed in the closed shop of our judicial system.

The result for the offender is likely to be the same, but at hundreds of times the cost to the taxpayer.

Andrew Vaughan
Ventnor, Isle of Wight

 

Globe and Mail:

  (Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail)

John Allemang

Satire is often nasty, harmful and grotesquely abusive

Irish Times:

‘Charlie Hebdo’ shootings and terror attacks in France

Sir, – The ambassadors to the US of the 28 EU member states and the EU delegation issued a joint statement condemning the attack on the staff of Charlie Hebdo. The statement reads in part: “Freedom of expression and freedom of the press are essential elements of any democratic and open society. Each is protected, on both sides of the Atlantic”. Did the Irish Ambassador or delegation struggle with the wording given that the type of expression engaged in by Charlie Hebdo is not protected in Ireland, since it would likely fall foul of section 36 of the Defamation Act 2009, which covers the offence of “publication or utterance of blasphemous matter”? I hope that the Act can be amended to align with our Ambassador’s view. – Yours, etc,

PADRAIC HENEGHAN,

Carpentersville,

Illinois.

Sir, – A culture of extreme and unjustified violence, combined with discrimination and racism, seems to be increasing in societies in the Middle East, the West, and in eastern Europe. The atrocities committed in France are the most recent example. There has been a significant increase in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia across Europe, as well as anti-Christian attacks and persecution associated with conflicts in several Middle Eastern states. In eastern Europe anti-Russian feeling is being fanned by the conflict in Ukraine and by western propaganda.

The right to freedom of speech is being cited as justification for the publication of materials that are deemed offensive to people of certain cultures. All rights and all aspects of freedom carry responsibilities, and it is essential that responsibility is exercised by all societies and by political leaders and media outlets, to avoid inflaming racism and discrimination.

The Huffington Post, in an article entitled “In wake of Charlie Hebdo attack, some media self-censor cartoons”, criticises such self-censorship. Responsible editing and common sense sensitivity to the feelings of others should not be labelled as unacceptable censorship. It is unduly offensive to Jewish people, and to most other people, to make jokes about the Holocaust. Similar sensitivity should be applied to all communities internationally.

It is essential that we should all do our utmost to improve relationships, and to promote peace rather than conflicts, between societies and communities both internationally and within our own countries. Racism and violence are two sides of the same coin. – Yours, etc,

EDWARD HORGAN,

Castletroy,

Limerick.

Sir, – It’s worth remembering that those champions of free speech, who paid the ultimate price for their art this week at the hands of fundamentalist wretches, would have been potentially subject to a fine of €25,000 for every one of their “blasphemous” cartoons from 2009 to today had they been operating in Ireland.

By voting to remove this restriction against the practice of free speech, the Irish public can show that our support for the brave voices at Charlie Hebdo extends beyond hashtags and that we truly believe in the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity. – Yours, etc,

JOHN HOGAN

Ballyneety,

Co Limerick.

Sir, – The dreadful killings in Paris bring to mind the words of Blaise Pascal that “men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it out of religious conviction”. There is implicit in these words a call for responsibility and moderation to the leaders of all world religions. Indeed the events in Paris remind us of the danger inherent in all kinds of absolutism. – Yours, etc,

DECLAN MORIARTY,

Finglas,

Dublin 11.

Sir, – Your report containing the words of Dr Ali Selim of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland (“Dublin based cleric warns of legal action over religious depictions”, January 8th), to the effect that he would be prepared to pursue a legal action under blasphemy legislation if “an Irish media organisation or social media carried a depiction of Muhammad, an act which Muslims find offensive”, constitutes the best argument so far for the repeal of this ridiculous legislation.

Even the fact that such a thing can be contemplated here, in the light of the appalling attack on freedom of expression in Paris, a nursery of democratic republicanism, is calculated to earn Ireland the opprobrium of the rest of the developed world, and deservedly so. – Yours, etc,

SEAMUS McKENNA,

Windy Arbour,

Dublin 14.

Sir, – I was surprised that Pakistan should join the list of countries that have condemned the murder of 12 people at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris on Wednesday. Pakistan currently has about 13 people on death row for committing “blasphemy”, including Asia Noreen Bibi, a Christian mother of three. She was working as a farm labourer in the Punjab in June 2009 when she was wrongly accused of insulting Muhammad. She has been held in prison in appalling conditions ever since. Sean Kenny TD is the only politician to have even mentioned her case in the Houses of the Oireachtas. – Yours, etc,

KARL MARTIN,

Bayside,

Dublin 13.

Sir, – I commend The Irish Times for showing solidarity with Charlie Hebdo. In your editorial (January 8th) you characterised the attack as “not only a barbarous act of terrorism but an assault on freedom of expression, one of the fundamental human rights”.

Is it possible, however, to express true solidarity in Ireland, as your newsroom staff did, with the phrase “Je suis Charlie” when the publication of material satirising any religious beliefs is open to prosecution under our blasphemy law? It is a law that criminalises freedom of expression by giving preference to religious beliefs.

I agree with you that it is “one thing to argue about whether particular expressions of satire are appropriate or tasteful but quite another to claim a right not to be offended”. That is why the offense of blasphemy needs to be taken out of our constitution.

We need to be able to say “Je suis Charlie” and mean it. – Yours, etc,

GERARD GREGORY,

Stillorgan,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – The members of Al-Mustafa Islamic Cultural Centre Ireland wish to extend their deepest sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims and the people of France .

The killing of journalists in Paris on Wednesday was not only an attack on France but also an assault on Islam and the very freedoms that allow 30 million Muslims to prosper in the West.

Unfortunately there is a problem of extremism and radicalisation among a minority of Muslim youth in western countries. It is the responsibility of Islamic leaders to highlight the peaceful and just message of Islam in which there is no space for extremism. – Yours, etc,

Dr MUHAMMAD

UMAR AL-QADRI,

Al-Mustafa Islamic

Educational

and Cultural Centre,

Ireland

Blanchardstown, Dublin 15.

Sir, – The murder of the cartoonists in Paris brings to mind Lord Byron’s observation in Don Juan: “And if I laugh at any mortal thing, ’Tis that I may not weep.” – Yours, etc,

Dr JOHN DOHERTY,

Gaoth Dobhair,

Co Dhun na nGall.

Sir, – Irish PEN joins PEN International and 47 PEN centres worldwide, including French PEN, PEN Canada, English PEN and PEN American Centre, in condemning the unprecedented attack on the office of the French publication Charlie Hebdo in Paris in which 12 people died and seven were injured.

We were sickened and shocked by this savage attack and we extend our heartfelt sympathies to the families of the victims and all affected.

As PEN International states, in the face of such violence it is incumbent on all governments and religious leaders to strengthen their commitment to press freedom and to safeguard freedom of expression as a fundamental human right.

PEN stands for the principle of unhampered transmission of thought within each nation and between all nations. Irish PEN is part of PEN’s global community of writers, spanning more than 100 countries, which stands together to oppose any form of suppression of freedom of expression. – Yours, etc,

VANESSA

FOX O’LOUGHLIN,

Chairwoman,

Irish PEN,

c/o United Arts Club,

Upper Fitzwilliam Street

Dublin 2.

Sir, – Dr Fergal Hickey makes an eloquent case for more accident and emergency funding by citing the situation in Australia (“Australian emergency care the State’s best template”, Opinion & Analysis, January 8th).

What he doesn’t say is that Australia has invested heavily in primary care with GPs resourced to deal with much of the work that Dr Hickey and his colleagues currently see in their departments. Every A&E department that has been extended and better resourced here in Ireland is too small and too busy within 18 months because of a culture of attending A&E in our cities and consequent lack of development of out of hours care in the community. Dr Hickey is making a good case for emergency care for trauma such as serious road traffic accidents and acute cardiac and respiratory illnesses. These are relatively uncommon situations. Indeed to deal with such urgent cases we don’t need all our A&E departments. Our improved road access and increasingly professionalised ambulance service now makes this reduction possible with very sick patients having much better outcomes with such a specialized service. What rightly upsets Dr Hickey and his colleagues are the vast numbers attending A&E that could be dealt with by general practitioners. This is now happening nationally with GP co-operatives seeing over a million patients out of hours last year. I know of one long-established co-op that sees twice as many patients as does its local A&E department and another new co-op that sees nearly 30 per cent of the numbers seen at its local adult A&E. In an experiment in St James’s Hospital in Dublin some years ago, employing GPs in A&E meant far fewer patients were referred into the hospital system when compared with the usual care. The decision-making ability of the more experienced GPs led to more patients being discharged back to their own doctor for further care. A&E as it is currently functioning has senior staff trained to deal with trauma and very sick patients. The majority of patients don’t need that level of care. Our A&E departments are currently functioning as primary care facilities but with access to diagnostic and inpatient facilities denied to GPs. This puts GPs at a clinical disadvantage in terms of resources and in providing an appropriate level of care to patients. The country cannot afford more of the same in A&E departments which will never solve the problem. It needs to rationalise our existing A&E departments into a few well-placed trauma centres. But most of all the system needs to strengthen primary care to let Dr Hickey and his colleagues do what they have been trained to do in a few well-placed specialised centres. – Yours, etc,

TOM O’DOWD, MD

Professor of

General Practice,

Trinity College Dublin.

Sir, – Planning for emergencies should be done in advance. The annual crisis in our hospitals takes place each winter and planning should begin at least six months beforehand and all contingencies should be factored into the plan to be implemented as and when appropriate. When next winter arrives, as it will, perhaps Minister for Health Leo Varadkar and his handlers , advisers (special and otherwise), civil servants, etc, will be prepared? Probably not. – Yours, etc,

HUGH PIERCE,

Celbridge, Co Kildare.

Sir, – In future when our Defence Forces deploy overseas, will they be bringing field hospitals with them or will portable corridors suffice? – Yours, etc,

HUGH T HYNES,

Limerick.

Sir, – Reading Frank McNally’s “An Irishman’s Diary about Alan Turing and crossword-solving” (January 9th), I suggest even the Enigma codebreakers would be challenged by the Crosaire crossword. – Yours, etc,

BOB BARRY,

Ashbourne, Co Meath.

Of rubbers and robbers – An Irishman’s Diary about Victor Noir and James Joyce

‘Noir’s grave has been a shrine, although not just to press freedom’

Grave of French journalist Victor Noir (1848-1870)  at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. Photograph: Joel Saget/AFP/Getty ImagesGrave of French journalist Victor Noir (1848-1870) at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. Photograph: Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images

Sat, Jan 10, 2015, 01:01

During quieter times in Paris, a few years ago, I visited the grave of a man called Victor Noir, who in his own way, like the victims of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, was a martyr for free speech.

Born Yves Salmon, he adopted the pseudonym when joining La Marseillaise, a newspaper opposed to the Second Empire regime of Napoleon III, in the late 1860s. And it was that paper’s publisher, Henri Rochefort, who provoked the homicidal wrath of the emperor’s cousin, Prince Bonaparte. But Noir was the one caught in the crossfire.

In the fashion of the era, the prince wrote to Rochefort inquiring, provocatively, “whether your inkpot is guaranteed by your breast”. This was a challenge to a duel, towards which end the letter also included Bonaparte’s Paris address, where the publisher was urged to present himself.

In the event, it was the 21-year-old Noir and a colleague who were dispatched there, as seconds, to arrange the duel. And the insult of having to deal with “underlings” only added to the prince’s ire. Details were subsequently disputed, with Bonaparte claiming Noir assaulted him. In any case, he shot the young newspaper man dead.

The killing became a cause célèbre for republicans, 100,000 of whom attended the funeral at Neuilly. Years later, in a post-imperial France, Noir was promoted to a more prestigious cemetery, Père Lachaise.

And ever since, his grave there has been a shrine, although not just to press freedom. For more mysterious reasons, possibly relating to the French sense of humour, which can be very earthy, the horizontal life-sized bronze sculpture of Noir, portrayed as he lay after the shooting, also became the focus of a fertility cult.

The idea is that touching his effigy in a certain place ensures good luck in procreative endeavours. So, as the sculpture’s conspicuously shiny crotch testifies, Père Lachaise may be the only cemetery ever to have had a problem with grave rubbers.

They tried fencing it off some years ago for decency’s sake. But even that was considered an infringement on free expression. The obstacle was removed eventually. As far as I could see, the rubbing continues.

These are troubled days in Paris, again. And among the many journalists covering events there this week, I noticed, was a Reuters reporter one called John Irish. It could almost be another pseudonym, but it’s not, apparently. Just to confuse the issue, according to his Twitter account, Irish is “French-English despite the name”.

I’m reminded of the mildly notorious plaque on one of James Joyce’s former Paris addresses, 71 Rue Cardinal Lemoine, which annoys at least some tourists by calling Joyce an “écrivain brittanique, d’origine irlandaise”.

Even allowing that Joyce was born under the empire, and that he carried a British passport, this seems wrong. It contrasts with – for example – George Bernard Shaw, who unlike Joyce spent most of his career in Britain but is an “écrivain irlandais” on his Paris plaque.

It’s a minor offence, I know. But on foot of mentioning it here some time ago, I received an interesting letter from London-based Brian O’Shea, who back in the 1990s co-authored a tourist guide to The Paris of Joyce & Beckett.

While compiling this, naturally, he wanted to include mention of the Cardinal Lemoine address, where Joyce completed Ulysses. So he wrote to the modern residents of No 71 (an apartment block) seeking permission. He was disappointed to receive a return letter from the “Le Propiétaire” urging him not to mention the building’s Joycean connection, in case it would attract burglars. There had been a series of “cambriolages” already, the person wrote.

And although taken aback, the publishers would have respected the residents’ wishes. But in a follow-up letter, O’Shea felt compelled to suggest that the incidence of burglary was very low among literary tourists.

Whereupon he received a further missive from No 71, this time from the “Président du Conseil Syndical”, who assured him that the residents would be delighted to have their address mentioned, and who was mystified as to the identity of the burglary-fearing imposter who had replied previously.

Who knows – maybe the phantom objector was himself a burglar who had intercepted the letter and wanted to deter tourists? In any case, the address was eventually included in the book, controversial inscription and all.

Whatever about robbers, it may be rubbers – Père Lachaise-style – that No 71 needs. In the meantime, I’m told the guide is still available from selected bookshops, or direct from the publishers, London Irish Literary Travel, The Busworks, North Road, London N7 9DP.

@FrankmcnallyIT

Irish Independent:

Author Salman Rushdie was the subject of a fatwa because his 1988 book ‘The Satanic Verses’ was considered blasphemous. Photo: PA
Author Salman Rushdie was the subject of a fatwa because his 1988 book ‘The Satanic Verses’ was considered blasphemous. Photo: PA

I refer to Dr Ali Selim’s threatening of the Irish media with legal action if they publish the Charlie Hebdo cartoon he finds offensive and which others found so offensive that they killed 12 people (‘Islamic cleric threatens Irish publications with legal action if they publish offending cartoon’, January 8).

  • Go To

First, how nice of Dr Selim to assure us that lives will not be in danger. It is reassuring that lives will not be in danger if a humorous cartoon is published in a democratic republic which upholds those essentials of democracy, freedom of expression and freedom of speech.

But, the reality is that people would have grounds to be worried if they were to publish the cartoon. We have been here before with the Danish cartoons, which were followed by hundreds of deaths and attacks on Christians, churches and European diplomatic missions.

When have also been here with the fatwa against Salman Rushdie in 1989, when the head of Iran’s hardline theocracy backed the murder of a foreign national. Why? Because he considered the writer’s work of fiction offensive. The book’s Japanese translator was stabbed to death in 1991. Its Italian translator was seriously injured in a stabbing in Milan in 1991. Its Norway publisher was shot three times in an attempted assassination in Oslo in October 1993. The book’s Turkish translator was the intended target in the events which led to the Sivas massacre in 1993, which caused the deaths of 37 people.

You reported that Dr Selim “insisted that he believed in freedom of expression and speech. However, he said that the image was offensive to equality”. An explanation of how the cartoon is offensive to equality is not proffered. Perhaps Dr Selim might enlighten us.

This brings us to the related issue of blasphemy. Dr Ali Selim previously argued in your newspaper against the abolition of the offence of blasphemy from our Constitution (‘Blasphemy offence is vital to our peaceful co-existence’, February 10, 2014).

Dr Selim said that blasphemy laws are “abused” in other countries. It would be more accurate to say that blasphemy laws are not abused – but enforced – in other countries. In Egypt, insulting Islam and Muhammad has resulted in the death penalty.

Do we really want to live in a country where being involved in the likes of a humorous cartoon, ‘Fr Ted’ or ‘The Life of Brian’ could result in a fine of up to €25,000?

The law against blasphemy is an anachronism and should be removed.

Rob Sadlier

Rathfarnham, Dublin 16

Aftermath of Paris attacks

The events at ‘Charlie Hebdo’ were shocking. Journalists and members of the public have showed solidarity with the journalists of ‘Charlie Hebdo’ by holding up “Je suis Charlie” placards. The sheer volume of people taking part in these acts of solidarity has been tremendous.

The deaths in Paris take place at a time when some divisions in society are increasing – yes, between peoples of different faiths (and none), but also between richer and poorer, between the older and the younger, between indigenous populations and newer migrants composed of a variety of colours, languages and creeds.

Europe finds itself in a tinderbox – the last week has seen demonstrations by the German far-right group Pegida, killings by people claiming to act for Islam, bombings and burning of mosques, and much else.

The principles of the French Republic are summarised in the slogan – Liberta, Egalite, Fraternite. There has been much talk about the first two, but what Europe and the wider world needs now is an emphasis on the third; we must as humans show humanity, and rise to be worthy of the acclaim we have granted ourselves.

We have been asked to show solidarity with those who died this week. Let us extend this idea further – let us show solidarity, and with it benevolence and restraint, to all participants of society.

Society can become stronger, but it will be tested before it becomes so. For it to become stronger, effort is needed. Or we can allow society to erode and fracture; and that requires good people to do nothing at all.

There will be a clamour from some portions of society to show ‘strength’ and solidarity in a particular way – by publishing offensive imagery and cartoons. I urge journalists and editors to not do so.

There is no doubt that we live in a society in which there is freedom of expression, but freedom of expression does not entail that there is a necessity of expression. We are already in a cycle of despair and hatred; we do not need to accelerate it. For those journalists and editors who are inclined to publish cartoons (of any subject matter), I urge them to engage in dialogue with those whom publishing will affect, and understand what the effects of doing so are.

Of course, dialogue requires a common language, hence those with whom such a dialogue will be undertaken need to be sought out – not the roughnecks, but the calm, quiet voices of wisdom which exist in every community.

Fraternite implies that we see others as having moral value; not that we see them as inferior, as the Other.

Dr Mobasher Choudhary

Northamptonshire, Britain

Following the threat issued to the Irish media by the Islamic scholar Dr Ali Selim of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland – that the ‘Charlie Hebdo’ cartoons must not be republished – the Irish Government must immediately repeal the bizarre blasphemy law inexplicably foisted upon this state by Dermot Ahern and the Fianna Fail administration in 2009.

Bernard Guinan

Claremorris, Co Mayo

A culture of extreme and unjustified violence, combined with discrimination and racism, seems to be increasing in societies in the Middle East, the West, and in Eastern Europe. The atrocities committed in France are the most recent example.

There has been a significant increase in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia across Europe, as well as anti-Christian attacks and persecution associated with conflicts in several Middle Eastern states. In Eastern Europe, anti-Russian feeling is being fanned by the conflict in Ukraine and by Western propaganda.

The right to freedom of speech is being cited as justification for the publication of materials that are deemed offensive to people of certain cultures. All rights and all aspects of freedom carry responsibilities, and it is essential that responsibility is exercised by all societies, and by political leaders and media outlets, to avoid inflaming racism and discrimination.

‘The Huffington Post’ in an article entitled ‘In Wake Of Charlie Hebdo Attack, Some Media Self-Censor Cartoons’ criticises such self-censorship. Responsible editing and common sense sensitivity to the feelings of others should not be labelled as unacceptable censorship. It is unduly offensive to Jewish people, and to most other people, to make jokes about the Holocaust. Similar sensitivity should be applied to all communities internationally.

It is essential that we should all do our utmost to improve relationships, and to promote peace rather than conflicts, between societies and communities both internationally. It is essential that we should all do our utmost to improve relationships, and to promote peace rather than conflicts, between societies and communities both internationally and within our own countries. Racism and violence are two sides of the same coin.

Edward Horgan

Castletroy, Limerick

Irish Independent

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