14 January 2015 Nurse

Mary a little better she could manage to get up for breakfast. Gout fading District Nurse comes.


Sir Jack Hayward, the owner and chairman of Wolverhampton Wanderers FC, in 2003

Sir Jack Hayward, the owner and chairman of Wolverhampton Wanderers FC, in 2003 Photo: Robert Hallam/REX

Sir Jack Hayward, who has died aged 91, was a philanthropist of uncommon generosity and a British patriot to the point of eccentricity.

A modest man with an unruly shock of white hair, Hayward listed his recreations in Who’s Who as “promoting British endeavours, mainly in sport. . . preserving the British landscape, keeping all things bright, beautiful and British”. He became known as “Union Jack”.

Although born at Wolverhampton, Hayward lived for most of his life in the Bahamas, where he flew the union flag on his Rolls-Royce and otherwise drove about in a London black cab. He liked being introduced as “a professional pioneer with Rudyard Kipling as his bible”.

Into Freeport – which he helped the American industrialist Wallace Groves to develop in the 1950s – Hayward imported London double-decker buses, red pillar boxes and GPO phone kiosks. Visiting seamen from the Royal Navy were always given dinner at a local restaurant “with the compliments of Sir Jack”. Back in Britain, Hayward drove a Range Rover bearing the bumper sticker: “Buy abroad — sack a Brit”.

In 1990 he bought his beloved Wolverhampton Wanderers football club for £2 million. He preferred to finance a home-grown team, and when asked in 1994 if he would have liked his manager, Graham Taylor, to have signed the German striker Jürgen Klinsmann, he replied: “I would have said, ‘Graham, you should be able to find 11 players good enough from the Midlands.’ ”

Wolves’ persistent lack of success often led him to suspect that his money was being misspent, and in 1999 he even sued his son Jonathan, a former chairman of the club, for alleged financial irregularities. “They think Golden Tit — me — will go on forever,” Hayward said on television. “It’s blackmail. Money has been wasted.” In 2003 his prayers were finally answered when Wolves won promotion to the Premier League via the play-offs final, only to be relegated the next season. He eventually sold control of the club, in 2007, to Steve Morgan.

Jack Arnold Hayward was born on June 14 1923 at Dunstall, Wolverhampton, less than half a mile from Molineux, the Wolves ground. His father, Sir Charles Hayward, had been a circus performer known as “The Living Head” before making his first fortune manufacturing motorcycle sidecars. He lost it all in 1929, but then amassed a second, much larger pile with his engineering group, Firth Cleveland.

Jack was educated at Stowe and in 1941 volunteered for the RAF. He trained as a pilot at Clewiston, Florida, then flew Transport Command Dakotas on the hazardous supply route to the Fourteenth Army in Burma. While in India he crashed his Tiger Moth when trying out a “my next trick is impossible!” manoeuvre. All that survived were Hayward and the propeller, which took pride of place in his office in Freeport .

Demobbed in the rank of flight-lieutenant in 1946, he joined Rotary Hoes, part of his father’s Firth Cleveland Group, and set about selling agricultural equipment from the back of a truck in southern Africa. In 1951 he founded the American arm of Firth Cleveland in New York. He lived there for five years until restrictions on foreign investment took him to Nassau.

Hayward was quick to see the potential to make money in the Bahamas, and persuaded his father to put £1 million into Groves’s scheme to develop Freeport. Groves had leased 50,000 acres of swamp and bushland from the Bahamas government to set up a tax-free industrial complex centred around a deep-water harbour — the government was to receive a cut of the revenues. Hayward became administrative vice-president of the new Grand Bahama Port Authority, overseeing the development. He became chairman in 1976, after buying Groves out.

Hayward threw himself into the life of island pioneer, working hard to transform the bush around Freeport into a city. He banked in a tiny hut called Barclays at the harbour; he did not see a telephone until 1960; and he needed to put down a sheet fastened by rocks to signal to passing aircraft that he wanted a lift to Nassau.

His investment instincts, meanwhile, were spot on: Freetown became the fastest growing industrial centre in the Caribbean, as international companies rushed in, excited by the tax advantages, tourist potential and proximity to America. The shares rocketed on the New York Stock Exchange and Hayward became very rich.

He resented any suggestion that he was a playboy or a tax exile, feeling that although he had inherited money, he had multiplied it through shrewdness and graft. He was also both publicly and privately generous. Indeed, of all his pursuits, he seemed to derive most satisfaction from giving his money away.

A vivid — and subsequently unfortunate — example of his beneficence was his gift of £150,000 to buy Lundy Island, a wildlife sanctuary off the north Devon coast, for the National Trust in 1969.

The campaign to save the island had been launched by three West Country MPs, including Jeremy Thorpe, the leader of the Liberal Party. Hayward read about it in The Daily Telegraph while sitting at home in the Bahamas. As he later recalled: “I had a bit of spare cash, so I telephoned Jeremy Thorpe and offered it to him.” When news of his generosity broke, Hayward remarked that he was “fed up with pieces of Britain going to foreigners”.

Sir Jack Hayward and his wife in 1982 (REX)

Three months later Hayward found himself sitting in a small church on Lundy, surrounded by grateful islanders celebrating its reprieve. In the pew behind sat Thorpe, whose smooth organisation of the day’s events made a big impression on Hayward. During the service of thanksgiving, Hayward leaned back and whispered: “God, Jeremy, you’ve done a super job, this is fantastic. You really should be prime minister if you can do a job like this.” “It’s on the cards, my dear fellow,” Thorpe murmured in reply. “But I might need some help.”

Over the course of the next day, Thorpe explained that the Liberal Party had an overdraft of £100,000. The next year, after meeting the Liberal MP Peter Bessell back in the Bahamas, Hayward was persuaded to part with another £150,000; the cheque was made out personally to Thorpe.

Feeling that Hayward was an easy touch, Thorpe made sure to cultivate their friendship. In the spring of 1973, shortly after Thorpe’s marriage to Marion, Countess of Harewood, the couple stayed with Hayward in the Bahamas.

Hearing that Hayward and his partners were thinking of selling Freeport, Thorpe offered to find them a buyer, in return for a commission. Thorpe asked Bessell to help . But before they could get a firm offer, Bessell became desperate for funds to cover up various frauds he had committed. He persuaded Thorpe that they should ask Hayward for an advance of $500,000 “to pay middlemen”. Hayward suspected something was up (albeit he thought Thorpe was being conned by Bessell) and told them they would first have to convince Wallace Groves, which they failed to do.

Undaunted, Thorpe again approached Hayward for money in April 1974. Thorpe now wanted untraceable money to enact his “final solution” to the problem of Norman Scott, his former lover. In his letter to Hayward, he apologised for the way “that bastard Bessell” had tried to con him the previous year, and asked Hayward for £50,000: £40,000 to go to the Liberal Party general election fund, and £10,000 to settle “election expenses” and to be paid to a man called Nadir Dinshaw.

Dinshaw was godfather to Thorpe’s son Rupert and, as Thorpe wrote, “conveniently resident in Jersey”. Thorpe explained to Hayward in the letter that he might carelessly have broken the rules governing a candidate’s general election expenses and that Dinshaw could safely pay the “ambiguous” bills which he had run up.

Hayward complied with both requests, so that when the election was called for October 10, Thorpe was able to splash out on a hovercraft which took him dramatically along the coast, until it was damaged when it sped up a beach in Devon. Their finances in rude health, the Liberals fielded a record number of candidates, although they ended up with just 13 MPs.

The next year, at Thorpe’s request, Hayward sent a further £10,000 to Dinshaw, in addition to £9,000 to the Liberal Party Direct Aid Committee. Neither Hayward nor Dinshaw knew it, but the money was to buy letters from Scott and to pay Andrew Newton, an airline pilot and now would-be hitman, for a “professional frightening job”.

Sir Jack Hayward celebrating Wolverhampton Wanderers win at the 2003 Nationwide Division One final (Getty)

The ensuing events, including the shooting of Norman Scott’s Great Dane Rinka by Newton on Dartmoor and the eventual arrest of Jeremy Thorpe and his co-conspirators, culminated in what is often described as “the trial of the century”.

During the investigation, Hayward was contacted by the police and asked about the £20,000 he had paid to Dinshaw in Jersey. With relief he remembered that he had kept the letters from Thorpe in a drawer by his bed at his house in Sussex. “They saved my bacon,” he told Thorpe’s biographer Simon Freeman. “If I hadn’t kept them, the police might have thought I knew where the money was going.”

The letters were the last piece in the jigsaw of the prosecution case, and at the trial at the Old Bailey in 1979, Hayward gave evidence for the crown. Judge Cantley called him “a nice, respectable witness” . But it was scant consolation for being dragged into the squalid affair. “I’m too trusting,” Hayward later admitted. “I like everyone. And Jeremy was very charming and amusing. But everyone was taken in by him, weren’t they?”

In the meantime, Hayward had continued to find patriotic causes on which to shower his money. In 1976 he gave £150,000 to pay for the salvage of Brunel’s SS Great Britain in the Falklands and return her to her original dock in Bristol; he later invited Paul Getty Jnr to match his £500,000 to complete the vessel’s restoration.

He funded three international racing yachts Great Britain I, II and III, spent £100,000 on saving the sloop Gannet (the Royal Navy’s only survivor of the transition from sail to steam) and contributed another £100,000 to help raise the Mary Rose.

After the Falklands conflict, he gave £1 million towards the replacement of the fire-damaged hospital in Port Stanley, and a further £1 million to the widows and orphans of those who had died during the fighting.

With his crumpled clothes and pockets stuffed with bits of paper, it was observed of Hayward that he looked “more like an absent-minded retired geography teacher than one of the richest men in the world”. He relaxed by watching cricket (he was a life member of Surrey CC) and taking part in amateur dramatics — he built an excellent modern theatre at Freeport for the local Players’ Guild, of which he was a leading actor. In addition to his home in Freeport, he owned a farm in Sussex and was Laird of Dunmaglass, a 14,000-acre estate near Inverness.

He was appointed OBE in 1968 and knighted in 1986.

He married, in 1948, Jean Forder, with whom he had two sons and a daughter. His relationships with his children were often fraught, and in recent years they had been involved in legal action.

Sir Jack Hayward, born June 14 1923, died January 13 2015


Shoppers on Oxford Street, London
‘Inequality drives competitive envy, the only solution to which is more stuff. And more stuff.’ Photograph: Bloomberg via Getty Images

Larry Elliott (If money can’t buy happiness, how are we all feeling as living standards fall?, 12 January), makes a number of salient points. We need, though, to reset the terms of the debate. As long as we continue to think about growth and wealth in purely numerical terms, we will continue to be stuck in contradictions. The wealth that each of us enjoys is not simply to do with the state of my bank balance, the things I buy, or even my share of GDP.

A large part of what makes each and every one of us rich is what we hold in common, and intangibles. I am rich because of the NHS, decent infrastructure, a tradition of the rule of law, democratic institutions, educational opportunities, voluntary support networks, family life, companionship, freedom to think my own thoughts and speak my mind, and confidence that all this is sufficiently important to others for it to be treasured and defended.

We need politicians and commentators to stop talking and point-scoring about who is going to put more (or less) into pockets, and to enter into a more fruitful debate about how we can work to ensure that all citizens are helped to flourish, and what that might mean in the 21st century.
Dr David Howard
Church Stretton, Shropshire

• Larry Elliot’s argument against degrowth is reductive and circular. As long as he believes that happiness depends on a constant stream of “the little pleasures in life”, he will be able to claim that we’re bound to be unhappy when the stream dries up. But once our basic needs for food, shelter and security are met – and, criminally, in the sixth-richest country in the history of the world they are not – a much wider, non-material, range of conditions for happiness come into play. The most important of these is equality. Inequality drives competitive envy, the only solution to which is more stuff. And more stuff. There is no reason why a small fall in “living standards” should make our quality of life any worse, once we have a society organised to meet the needs of everyone rather than the wants of a few.
Professor Andrew Dobson
Keele University

• First question: whose living standards? If one individual can afford to buy a thousand houses, while another hasn’t got the wherewithal to rent decent accommodation, are the living standards of both in freefall? Larry, why didn’t you mention inequality?
Dr Wiebina Heesterman

• People increasingly feel a lack of control over their futures (Anxious Britain will find no succour in a TV leader debate, Zoe Williams, 12 January). Research shows that more than half of UK consumers feel they have “little or no control” in markets fundamental to the cost of living, such as transport, energy and the cost of caring for the elderly.

But the current political debate is out of touch with the change that is happening on the ground. People are coming together to confront our faltering economic model. They are creating a social economy – setting up social enterprises which reinvest their profits to tackle social and economic problems, community energy schemes and co-operatives. These businesses are giving people more control over the economic forces which so often uproot lives. A new sort of economy built on principles of solidarity and co-operation already exists – it now needs the support of our leaders.
Dan Gregory
Director, Social Economy Alliance, London

• Many people are not just sick with worry about wages, housing, food, utility bills etc in a high-living-cost, low-income Britain, they are highly insecure and fearful about the future in what Zoe Williams calls an “anxious Britain”. We live in a fear-driven society, where everyone is on their own, with coalition government austerity policies enabling a massive wealth transfer to a kleptocratic plutocracy. This rules through a corporatocracy that has largely captured government and the state so as to extract our common wealth. For example, in 2012, 46 of the top 50 publicly traded firms in the UK had a British parliamentarian as a director or shareholder.

Understanding that Britain today is an anxious, fear-dominated society is crucial. It explains why the right is happy to use blame and fear strategies such as immigration to get votes. They well know that social insecurity can lead to authoritarian governments. So, to counter fear, building societal, human security is vital through things like secure jobs, affordable housing, free education and health, the civil bedrock of human rights and taxing the corporate tax avoiders fairly. Reclaiming democracy by pushing the market out of politics would help. For starters, why not require all parliamentarians who are sponsored by corporations to wear their corporate logos like Formula One racing drivers when at Westminster?
Martin Large

Great White Shark Carcharodon carcharias Water level view in South Africa
A great white shark off South Africa. It looks pretty fearsome, but do toasters kill more people? Photograph: Alamy

Is economics relevant as a profession (Letters, January 8)? Just been watching BBC2’s The Super-Rich and Us, to the accompaniment of texts from my daughter. After an exchange of texts despairing at the growth of inequality and the conclusion of the experts, including Thomas Piketty, that there is no such thing as the trickle-down effect, my daughter concludes: “How many economists does it take to change an economy?”
Sue Gollop

Paul Mason (G2, 12 January) seems to believe that it was the French population who resisted and defeated the Nazis. Perhaps he should start reading books on history as well as economics.
Professor Alan Sked
London School of Economics

• Surely a much more vital role for HP sauce (Letters, 13 January) was in the introduction of the French language to us lower middle classes. Does anyone else remember the label on the bottle: “Cette sauce de haute qualité est une mélange…” etc? It proved of little use in France, sadly.
Frances Worsley
Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire

• In his discussion on the relative rarity of screen portraits of critics (Point of view, Review, 10 January), Anthony Quinn omits the brilliant portrait of Alexander Woollcott as Sheridan Whiteside in The Man Who Came To Dinner (1942), or again as Waldo Lydecker in Laura (1944).
Philip Clayton

• Polly Toynbee’s comments on our often irrational responses to threats (Opinion, 13 January) reminded me of the posters I saw in South Africa explaining that more people are killed by toasters than sharks.
Mathew Frith

• Now there seems to be a groundswell of opinion in favour of free speech, perhaps the heir to the throne could allow the BBC to screen Reinventing the Royals (BBC shelves show on Prince Charles’s former king of spin, 30 December).
Janet Guest
Woking, Surrey

Dulwich Picture Gallery
The Dulwich Picture Gallery. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

The decision of the Dulwich Picture Gallery (Report, 13 January) to hang a fake painting may open the way for large galleries running blockbuster shows to do this more cheaply and at no risk to the originals. The very substantial cost of transporting and insuring pictures is a barrier to their being more widely seen, as is the certainty that they will be lost if the aircraft carrying them crashes; add to this the reluctance of galleries to lend their most precious pictures in an age where western icons may be increasingly at risk. People who have not yet seen one of these copies at close quarters will, I suggest, be amazed at their quality. Perhaps the gallery will publish not only the number of people who guessed correctly, but also the number who got it wrong.
Dr SJ Harris

Woman in a wheelchair
‘We are all one car accident or stroke away from disability.’ Photograph: © Uwe Anspach/dpa/Corbis

My heart goes out to Linda Cooksey, not only for losing her brother but for having to deal with the frustrations of getting the government to publish details of the review (Report, 12 January). It is terrifying that public funding cuts are being made to the third sector when they are the lifeline for vulnerable people. I am an unpaid carer and I could not cope without the support of carers’ organisations/charities helping me through the minefield of tribunals and applications for benefits. It is imperative that funding is not cut any more, as I fear more vulnerable people will feel bleak enough to do something drastic.

This government is so cocooned by privilege that its members cannot conceive of what it must have been like for Tim Salter to have no money in the bank, or food in the house. Westminster and the DWP need to take responsibility for the consequences of a cross on a form. We are all one car accident or stroke away from disability.
Name and address supplied

• The very fact that the independent case examiner report into the case of Tim Salter, who killed himself, puts the onus on Mr Salter to have used the complaints procedure, made clear the extent of his mental health problems, and given more information to Jobcentre Plus, shows that the system is not fit for purpose. Anyone with an ounce of common humanity, who was not seeking to defend the indefensible, would recognise that someone as vulnerable as Mr Salter would be totally unable to take the initiatives required for this.

This government is quick to trumpet its crusade against malingerers and benefit cheats. It seeks to do this by a system which wrongfoots and then blames applicants. However, those who understand the system can play it to their advantage. This no doubt applies to benefit cheats and wealthy tax dodgers alike.
JD Budden
Exmouth, Devon

• Does the DWP expect us to believe that only one out of 60 reviews of suicides related to “changes” to benefits resulted in an update to staff guidance? How is the very fact of 60 suicides since 2012, ie the real possibility of a fatal reaction to cuts in benefits, addressed in staff training? The peer reviews should be available to the bereaved families or a coroner, and overall there must be an independent inquiry.
Dr Graham Ullathorne
Chesterfield, Derbyshire

Agricultural worker and a crate of cucumbers
‘Migrants do not suddenly arrive out of thin air, but are mainly recruited by agencies, often gangmasters, retained by British companies to find cheap labour to work in Britain.’ Photograph: Rogulin Dmitry/ITAR-TASS Photo/Corbis

I agree with Philip Oltermann (Why Britain’s lovebombing of Berlin has failed, 7 January) that the UK will not solve the perceived immigration problem in Germany – but neither will it be solved in eastern Europe. The solution is here in the UK. Migrants do not suddenly arrive out of thin air, but are mainly recruited by agencies, often gangmasters, retained by British companies to find cheap labour to work in Britain. The gangmasters may advance the travel costs and organise accommodation, which results in a large number of people sharing a house or flat. The employer pays the gangmaster, but the gangmaster then deducts commission, travel, accommodation and sundry costs. If the government really wanted to reduce the number of migrants, it could ensure the minimum wage – preferably a living wage – is properly enforced. That enforcement should include companies employing and paying workers directly, not through gangmasters. If gangmasters have recruited the workers, then they should be paid a commission like any other employment agency, and that commission should be paid by the employer, not the employee. The main political parties do not want to solve the problem, but need to sabre-rattle because of Ukip.
Michael Gold
Green parliamentary candidate for Walthamstow

Vivian Wineman, right, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, with members of the Jewish Leadership Council during a meeting with David Cameron on 13 January
Vivian Wineman, right, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, with members of the Jewish Leadership Council during a meeting with David Cameron on 13 January. Photograph: Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images

Deborah Maccoby (Letters, 13 January) writes that the Board of Deputies of British Jews contributes to the rise in attacks on Jews because it claims “that the majority of Jews support Israel’s policies”. This is completely opposite to a report written by the Board, quoted on 8 May 2014 in the Jewish News, which notes “that communal surveys have pointed to overwhelming support for the two state solution and opposition to settlement construction”. Not to mention that the president of the Board, Vivian Wineman, is a former chair of the UK branches of Peace Now and of the New Israel Fund, each of which is prominent in promoting Jewish-Arab dialogue in Israel and the occupied territories.
Joseph Pearlman

• On the day that Jewish victims of a murderous terror attack in a Paris kosher grocery are laid to rest, we read a letter in the Guardian by an executive at “Jews for Justice for Palestinians”, holding Jews responsible for current levels of antisemitism. This is not only disrespectful to the victims at Hyper Cacher, but is also fundamentally wrong, based on the twisted logic that when Jews die, Jews must be to blame; 17 people died this week at the hands of jihadists, four of them simply for being Jewish. Rather than condemn the perpetrators, “Jews for Justice for Palestinians” choose to blame the victims. For shame.
Yiftah Curiel
Spokesperson, embassy of Israel

• Your report (Mentor of Charlie Hebdo gunman has been UK-based,, 11 January) says the Muslim Council of Britain is supporting the case of Sylvie Beghal. The truth is that she brought a legal action against the director of public prosecutions that raises a number of important issues with wide-ranging implications for the civil liberties of British citizens, and in particular for the Muslim community. The MCB, together with other human rights organisations such as Liberty, successfully applied to be joined as an intervener in this case. We have no involvement in the conduct of Beghal’s case. Despite the heightened sensitivities, your story states nowhere that the MCB has robustly and loudly condemned terrorism. Our interest in this case is purely for the upholding of human rights.
Nasima Begum
Muslim Council of Britain

TS Eliot
TS Eliot. Photograph: Express/Getty Images

In his celebration of the young TS Eliot (Review, 10 January), Robert Crawford writes at length about the modernity and the notable achievement of The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock, but mentions only casually Eliot’s making friends with Ezra Pound. Perhaps he is not aware that Pound was the first to recognise the modernity and the achievement of Prufrock, and that he did this on first meeting Eliot in September 1914; that he overcame the resistance of the editor to get that poem published in Poetry (Chicago) in June 1915; that he printed all the poems Eliot had ready for publication in his Catholic Anthology in November 1915, for “the satisfaction of getting Eliot’s poems into print between covers”; and that he subsidised the publication of Eliot’s first slim volume, Prufrock and Other Observations, in 1917, then generously reviewed it. Later, of course, he edited Eliot’s drafts into the acclaimed The Waste Land. Altogether, young Eliot’s debt to young Ezra Pound seems worthy of note.
A David Moody
Pateley Bridge, North Yorkshire

Robert Crawford describes the first publication of Prufrock in 1915 as being “tucked away towards the back of a small magazine, probably because the editor did not greatly care for it”. Poetry magazine was indeed small (it had been founded, on a shoestring, only three years earlier). It’s also true that its founder and editor, Harriet Monroe, was befuddled by Prufrock and had to be pushed by Ezra Pound (a world-class nagger) into publishing it. But Poetry quickly became, and remained for decades, the major outlet for modern poetry in English, giving early exposure not just to Pound and Eliot but to Robert Frost, Edna St Vincent Millay, HD, Marianne Moore, Langston Hughes and many others. And now, of course, thanks to a $200m bequest from Ruth Lilly (who had submitted several poems to the magazine and apparently greatly appreciated the then editor’s courtesy in handwriting the rejection letters himself), the shoestring has become a cornucopia. I think the article should at least have given the magazine its name. Although, perhaps, I am biased; Harriet Monroe was my great-aunt.
Ann Monroe
Totnes, Devon

Arthur Butterworth conducting
Arthur Butterworth was passionate about the Yorkshire Moors. Photograph: Lewis Foreman

I first met Arthur Butterworth (in September 1960 when I was a very raw, newly qualified teacher and he was a peripatetic brass teacher for the West Riding of Yorkshire. I continued to follow his conducting and other musical activities, and later persuaded him to write a piece for the Huddersfield Singers, formerly the Huddersfield Glee and Madrigal Society, when they celebrated their 125th anniversary in 2000.

As the organisation’s president, I asked Arthur for one of his few choral works. He overcame his initial reluctance and chose a poem by Ann Brontë that reflected Arthur’s own love of the Yorkshire Moors. As far as I am aware, Haworth Moor has not been performed since its premiere by the Singers – they told me it was fiendishly difficult to sing.

Patrician privilege … Illustration: Gary Kempston

Dangers of dynastic power

Jonathan Freedland’s article on Hillary Clinton is yet another example of a piece written from the point of view of an out-of-touch elite (9 January). The question isn’t whether Hillary Clinton can fight ageism, but whether the social base of the Democratic party can triumph over patrician privilege.

The Clinton administration of which she was a significant part exported working-class American jobs while doing nothing to stop the scapegoating of the US poor. Their economic policy was pro-Wall Street. The difficulties Al Gore suffered in campaigning for president were in no small part due to the fact that the Clintons had made the party irrelevant to its social base. It’s hardly surprising that many progressive votes from the left went to wild card Ralph Nader.

Americans once fought a war against unaccountable monarchical family privilege. Those parts of the Democratic party desperate to stop Hillary Clinton are right to resist the stench of vested interest that accompanies the return of unaccountable dynastic family power.
Gavin Lewis
Manchester, UK

The evils of xenophobia

It was disappointing to read of the strong anti-Islamic demonstrations in Germany, and heartening to learn of the impressive German opposition in response (9 January).

We know from the German experience in the 1930s and 1940s just how dangerous such popular xenophobia can be. Of course, the danger is not by any means confined to Germany. A history lecturer at Adelaide University in the 1960s – Peter Phillips – had spent some time in a German concentration camp. He told us students that he rejected the notion of the Holocaust as something uniquely German. Instead, he argued that these atrocities could have occurred in any country at any time in similar circumstances.

He was right – and we, the fair-minded majority in our respective nations around the globe, need to be on our guard, lest the xenophobic evil that exists in all societies run to an extreme should we once more encounter the kind of dire economic and social circumstances that gave rise to the Holocaust.
Terry Hewton
Adelaide, South Australia

Australia’s dark shadow

When did Australia – which we have experienced as a sunny and optimistic country – develop such a dark shadow? Indigenous Australians have long experienced the shadow of racism and discrimination but now the shadow has lengthened to include its treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.

Current government policy is deliberately cruel and lacking compassion. It is also defying UN conventions on refugees that were agreed to by Australia in the shadow of the second world war horrors. The public has been systematically fed misinformation that fuels a climate of fear and xenophobia.

Barbaric treatment of vulnerable refugees including the imprisonment of children in hostile environments with no hope of a fair legal assessment of their refugee claims is unacceptable. We are failing badly as world citizens compared to much poorer countries, which take a much larger share of the world’s refugees.

We would urge the international community to pressure our politicians to abandon these cruel and inhumane policies.
Margaret Wilkes
Perth, Western Australia

All human life matters

Are all humans born equal? The opposite is implied by the juxtaposition of articles Terror comes to Australia and News in brief (19 December). While the tragic attack in Australia is undoubtedly newsworthy, there is cause for reflection in how the marginalised people of Pakistan have been sidelined in the layout of the page. While the Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar killed at least 126 people, it was graced with just one-10th of the space that the two deaths in a Sydney cafe (not counting the terrorist) received.

Just because violence in Pakistan is more frequent, and more removed from the lives of most GW readers, that doesn’t mean that we should be less concerned about it. Please respect the value of all human life – not just rich westerners – in how you treat these stories.
Thomas Delaney
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

• The heart-wrenching tragedy in Peshawar has truly, numbed us all – beyond borders, and boundaries – of caste, religion, language and age. As much as feel dazed – by the brutality and absurdity of it all – we are also inspired by a new resolve, to stand up for peace, friendship and harmony – even as we face newer challenges in this dizzying 21st century.

Strangely, events such as the one in Peshawar and earlier, the Nirbhaya tragedy in India in late 2012, unite us far stronger than borders or great power wars can ever divide. Let’s just hope that in this moment of reckoning, all nations – and peoples – rise together to strike a warm and beautiful beginning.
Isha Shah
New Delhi, India

• Editor’s note: Initial reports of the Peshawar school massacre emerged just as the 19 December edition of the Weekly was going to press. A full page was subsequently devoted to the story in our 2 January edition.

A better definition of hell

Meghan O’Gieblyn’s piece on hell (19 December) was fascinating but I feel that there is an easier definition: at primary school a teacher told us that we should imagine a place where everyone has to eat with enormous chopsticks, with those in heaven being completely happy because they feed each other, whereas hell is the same place but with everyone insisting on eating their own food with their own chopsticks, thereby resulting in hunger and distress.

I was pondering this and reflecting on Christmas advertising, and do wonder whether we have not somehow created our own consumerist hell here on earth. Each Christmas we are bombarded with ever-more aggressive advertising intended to create desire which adds the aspect of “amplified hunger” to the chopstick analogy, with everyone wanting private possession and yearning to reach a maximum satisfaction that can never be.

O’Gieblyn says preachers pander to their congregations by leaving out references to hell, just as “a clothes ad will [not] call attention to child labour”. The chopstick idea can be taken to a further level with us having the supposed means to attain the unattainable produced under sweat-shop conditions in distant countries. This makes hell multifaceted because not only is the west locked into a paradigm of insatiable desire but, on top of this, the burden of toil required to satisfy it is exported to the low-wage regions of the planet.

So, while we’re analysing ideas of hell in the hereafter, we should also spare a moment to consider whether we have not created a few aspects of hell right here on earth.
Alan Mitcham
Cologne, Germany

Great year in review

Your end-of-year issue was a vast and mostly successful attempt to draw the messy threads of the year together, and a credit to all your correspondents. I read all 15 pages of the Year in review, noted the comments that overlapped but never contradicted one another, and then sat back to try and digest it all.

Now it may have been too much of the excellent turkey stuffing or more likely the merlot that accompanied it, but those very same threads, so carefully analysed in your review, began to tangle, blur and merge. Dilma Rousseff got re-elected but was it Mexico, Bolivia, Venezuela or Argentina – oh no, dammit, Brazil.

And then there was Abdel Fatah al-Sisi in Egypt but somehow Hosni Mubarak is still there, now a free man, and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi the caliph of the non-existent Islamic State, somewhere in Syria or is it Iraq? And all that before we reach Ebola and the war zones of Africa.

Quick, turn to Wenlock Edge to cool my brindled brain: as the little (sycamore) seed drones twizzle through the grey winter air, their keys are tuning the locks of the future.
Kenneth Cowan
Bozouls, France


• Oliver Balch’s article, Disaster the new normal in Nicaragua (2  January), includes a prediction that if temperatures continue to rise, corn harvests there could drop annually by up to 34,000 tonnes by 2020. You also highlight this figure in an infographic, How the heat is on Nicaragua’s harvest. If, like me, you do not happen to have information on Nicaraguan crop yields at your fingertips, this conveys nothing about the seriousness of the projected downturn – are we talking about a 1% decline, or 5%, or 50%?

I found a figure on the internet for current production of 540,000 tonnes. This would mean a projected annual decline of something over 6% per annum: it does indeed look serious. But can I suggest that, to make more sense to readers, you include percentages when reporting data like this?
John Ansell
Thame, UK

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Sir, First Milk’s announcement that it will delay payment to farmers (News, Jan 12) in some ways is not a surprise, but it highlights the deepening of the crisis facing British dairy farmers.

The number of milk producers in England and Wales has fallen below 10,000 and this number could halve by 2025. This is not because of farm inefficiency but due to the drive for ever cheaper milk, which means only a few farmers will be left standing. The use (or abuse) of milk by retailers as a loss leader amounts to playing with our food.

A perception of cows in fields maintained by those selling dairy products masks the steady march towards a future where milk and dairy products will increasingly flow from industrial sites.

I started a farmer-led movement called Free Range Dairy and the Pasture Promise label to promote the value of Britain’s seasonally grazed dairy herds and try to shift industry focus away from volume and towards value. We must all take responsibility for our food choices. That is why I would like to see labelling on milk cartons and packaging that will enable consumers to make a choice about the provenance of the dairy in their diet and reward farmers with a fair price.

Neil Darwent
BBC outstanding farmer of the year 2014, and director, Free Range Dairy Network

Sir, I congratulate Deborah Ross on her piece about cheap milk (Times 2, Jan 8). At last, an article showing the human side of the dairy industry crisis. We were fifth-generation dairy farmers, milking 250 cows, and our herd was in the top 10 per cent in the UK for herd health, milk quality and production. During the last round of low milk prices, we were receiving 16p a litre; it was costing 21p a litre to produce and this became unsustainable.

To remain on our tenanted farm we had to sell our herd. It was the worst day of our lives, as we loved our cows and knew them all by name. It was like selling our family, and for many months I could not bear to walk around those silent farm buildings.

Doreen Forsyth

Amble, Northumberland

Sir, The controversy over milk is just part of the problem in food retail marketing. For years now, supermarkets have driven down the prices as they strove to gain market share. My late father, who worked for the National Farmers Union in the Seventies, forecast just such a scenario, saying that it would lead to the British farmer being dictated to by the retailer. If we don’t pay a price that gives a sensible return for the producer, we may not have a farming industry left.

Brian Milner
Boston Spa, W Yorks

Sir, If farming was to return to the supposed utopia of small farms that you appear to advocate (leader, Jan 10) the world would not be fed. Britain has had to feed an extra 14 million people over the last 70 years but, at the same time, a huge area has been taken out of agriculture for development. Have shop shelves been bare? No, because British agriculture has risen to the challenge by embracing science while being mindful of welfare.

Richard T Halhead

Fellow of the Royal Agricultural Societies, Cockerham, Lancs

Sir, As late as 1976, when I joined the civil service, I was issued with a booklet intended to put the young bureaucrat out of his misery when opening and closing letters (TMS, Jan 9 and letters, Jan 11 & 12); I say his misery, because female bureaucrats were required to use “Dear Mr Wilson” and to be addressed as “Dear Miss Wilson”, regardless of comparative status. Their male colleagues started with the default “Dear Wilson”. If Mr Wilson was an equal or inferior and was known personally to the author, “My Dear Wilson” was acceptable, if hand-written. If he was broadly equal or inferior and a friend, “My Dear Harold” could also be hand-written.

Then there were rigid rules as to the use of “Yours sincerely”, “Yours ever”, or even “Yours aye”. Ah, happy days.
Norman McFadyen

Sir, In 1959 on my first day as a schoolmaster, I addressed a senior colleague in the staff room as “Mr Smith”. He replied, crushingly, “I am Smith; Mr Smith is the caretaker”.
David Terry
Droitwich, Worcs

Sir, In La Dolce Vita, Anita Ekberg (obituary, Jan 11) is first seen descending from the steps of an aeroplane, playing to the paparazzi. It is worth mentioning that the word “paparazzi” stems from a character in the film named Paparazzo, a freelance photographer.
James Thom

Sir, It was not Lance Percival’s impersonation of Sir Alec Douglas-Home on That Was The Week That Was which so upset the government (letter, Jan 10). It was a sketch, written by Stephen Vinaver, in which Roy Hudd played a ventriloquist and the dummy on his lap was a Douglas-Home lookalike.
David Lee
(Musical director, TW3)
Kingston upon Thames

Sir, Philip Collins’s comments on “the poisonous influence of religious belief” (Opinion, Jan 9) equates what he calls the “egregious history of the Christian church” with current Muslim violence. But this is not to compare like with like. The medieval world was much more violent — according to Steven Pinker you were more than 40 times more likely to be murdered in 13th-century England than today.

As David Martin points out in his book Religion and Power, it is only Christians (and Christian derivative humanists — including presumably Philip Collins) that should have a problem with religious violence. Unlike the other peoples of the book, they have explicit instructions from their founder to avoid it (Matthew 5-7). Notably, he practised what he preached. Religion is not a single phenomenon, but embraces radically different teachings. Perhaps we should have a bit more of “by their fruits ye shall know them”.
Stephen Prickett
Regius professor emeritus of English, University of Glasgow, Charing, Kent

Sir, A huge cheer for the engineers who are reconnecting the 100,000 homes left without power following the storms (News, Jan 13). They are still, as I write, out there, in what is now a blizzard, repairing the breaks that are left and will no doubt recur as January reminds us who she is. The fault lies with our infrastructure. Rather than bury cables we have stuck with erecting pylons, allegedly for cheapness. Considering the cost every time the wind coughs, how cheap are they really?
David Catto
Ardgay, Sutherland


An armed guard stands outside a Jewish School in Paris

An armed guard stands outside a Jewish School in Paris Photo: Getty Images

SIR – The horrific events in France last week highlight the need for a fundamental change of government anti-terrorism strategy, rather than just throwing yet more money at the security service.

Over the past decade the lead in the fight against home-grown terror has lain with the security service, which (for fear of disclosing intelligence techniques and sources) has chosen to adopt a softly-softly and unsustainably labour-intensive approach of monitoring and surveillance, rather than direct confrontation and criminal prosecution of those identified in the commissioning of extremist terror.

The police (rather than the security service) should take the lead. A more aggressive use of police powers is needed, to wind in and disrupt those identified as peddling extremism or who have fallen under its influence. Police should intervene as soon as extremist behaviour becomes apparent, to the full extent allowed by the law, rather than just watching and waiting for terrorism to happen. People should be charged whenever there is evidence, even if protection of intelligence methods means it is unlikely things will progress to trial.

Only thus will the threat of home-grown extremism be driven to ground, to the true benefit of a multi-cultural Britain.

Mark Campbell-Roddis
Dunblane, Perthshire

SIR – So far, so idealistic – and indeed impressive. But the millions out on French streets on Sunday were not the ones with the Kalashnikovs and rocket-launchers.

Edward Thomas
Eastbourne, East Sussex

SIR – Britain is not equipped, culturally, to arm the police. In all countries where police are armed as a matter of course, people join them knowing they have to carry a firearm, and to use it, having been exposed to police sidearms in public from the earliest age. In Britain, applicants must apply to be a firearms officer, which calls into question their mindset.

When someone makes an application to carry the means to kill people, he or she is automatically suspect.

Stuart Cherry
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

SIR – In the same week that the tragic death of 17 French people brought 40 of the world’s leaders on to the streets in a sign of unity against terrorism, more than 2,000 people were slaughtered by terrorists in Nigeria. And the world’s response?

Paul Francis
London W8

SIR – Mike Mahoney is wrong. You do not show respect for other people if you ridicule their beliefs. Sensible discussion is another matter, but it may make no difference to their beliefs, and mockery will probably strengthen them.

Ronald Phillipson
Brentwood, Essex

SIR – I have Muslim neighbours with whom I live in peace. I wouldn’t think of ridiculing their faith, as they wouldn’t mine, so what is Charlie Hebdo about?

There’s a difference between free speech and malicious speech.

Doreen Whittaker
Ilford, Essex

SIR – We will not defeat extremism without the wholehearted backing of the peace-loving Muslim majority in Britain. How can we realistically expect this support while we continue to ridicule their beliefs?

Anthony Haslam
Farnham, Surrey

SIR – Perhaps this is the time for the French to look in the mirror and reflect upon the way they treat the Jewish population in their country.

For different religions to live side by side there has to be tolerance and respect. Free speech is all very well, but mockery just lights the blue touch-paper and then everyone gets burnt.

Frances Henton
Salisbury, Wiltshire

SIR – It’s a bit rich of David Cameron to say of the Paris atrocities: “We must never allow the values that we hold dear – of democracy, of freedom of speech – to be damaged by these terrorists”.

If Charlie Hebdo had existed in Britain, it would have been shut down years ago and its editor charged with hate crimes.

Virginia Price Evans
Whitland, Carmarthenshire

SIR – Who can I offend and when? It was obviously not OK for Brenda Leyland to send offensive messages to the McCanns. It was not OK for Jessica Laney to be taunted to death by internet trolls.

Is it OK for me to offend black people, Jews, or immigrants, or is that racist? What about non-immigrant, non-religious white people – can I offend them?

Caroline Shaw
Painswick, Gloucestershire

SIR – Mr Cameron says: “Nothing we want to achieve will be possible unless we eliminate our deficit and deal with our debts.”

The events in Paris this last week should have reminded him he needs to assess the values of this nation’s foundational beliefs. They are more important than sound public finances.

Jonathan Longstaff
Woodford Green, Essex

SIR – The Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre says that the current terror threat is amber, that is, severe with an attack likely. Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, says an attack is possible but unlikely (two levels below the JTAC advice). I want to live near to him.

W K Wood
Bolton, Lancashire

Miliband’s NHS campaign focus may backfire

SIR – If it is Ed Miliband’s intention to “weaponise” the NHS and gain political advantage during the next few months, he may have to be careful that the fire is not turned on him – particularly given the abysmal record of the ruling Labour Party in Wales in running the NHS there.

Paul Pritz
Wolverhampton, Staffordshire

SIR – Andy Burham, the shadow health secretary, doesn’t believe in top-down reorganisation of the NHS. But isn’t he advocating exactly that when he talks about combining the social-care and NHS budgets?

Jonathan Midgley

SIR – The Labour Party needs to be reminded of its previous attempts to interfere with the NHS.

While I was a GP manager the party ended fundholding – a scheme that had brought untold benefits to patients of my practice. Then Labour changed the GP contract to remove the onus on doctors to offer out-of-hours cover. This has led to a failed NHS out-of-hours service, a failed NHS Direct and increased problems for A&E. Will Mr Miliband and his party not listen and learn?

Nick Hawksley
Ashill, Somerset

SIR – It is surprising that Labour should want to make the NHS a major issue in the general election campaign.

It was the decision of the last Labour government to prioritise non-medical targets in hospitals that led to the premature deaths of more than 1,000 patients in Mid-Staffordshire.

John Gordon
Kingsbridge, Devon

Milking water profits


SIR – You report that milk is cheaper than bottled water. It is perhaps more interesting that bottled water is more expensive than milk.

Water prices regularly exceed £1.50 a litre. It costs more than petrol, which is transported halfway round the world, refined, and then taxed to the hilt.

Cliff Billington

Bumf harvest

SIR – I have just received, from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the sixth variant of the farmer’s guide to the new agricultural policy schemes. This version states that “the European Commission hasn’t finished all the guidance”, so presumably there is another document to come.

The weight of my paperwork so far is 1lb 14oz. With about 300,000 agricultural holdings in Britain, 250 tons of documents must have been distributed, outlining a scheme that has still not been finalised.

John Butler
Rowde, Wiltshire

Smart but inaudible

SIR – My ability to enjoy quality television sound using Bluetooth headphones and subtitles is under threat with the rise of the smart television.

Neither Sky nor Amazon provides subtitles and Netflix’s subtitles are poor.

Dr A E Hanwell

Same-sex weddings

SIR – My partner and I have converted our nine-year civil partnership into a marriage. We did not hold another celebration as we are awaiting the opportunity for a marriage ceremony in England’s established Church.

I understand the right of many religious organisations to claim exemption from carrying out same-sex marriage ceremonies, but it is a disgrace that the Church of England is allowed to do so.

Kevin Liles

Queuing USA

SIR – As an American, Suzi LeVine is well placed to comment on queuing for ski lifts. More than 20 years ago, my wife and I learnt to ski in eastern Europe, enduring scrums for the lift every time. We even had to bribe the lift operator.

We then spent a week at the ski resort at Burke Mountain, Vermont. In America, everybody had to “get in line” – and it worked perfectly. Why Europeans find it so hard to organise a fair system of queuing is a mystery.

Robert Parker

On the rack

SIR – It’s not just the cost of commuting. I, a 54-year-old woman, count myself lucky to sit in the luggage rack occasionally rather than stand in the morning rush on the London train.

Jacqueline Heywood
Oxted, Surrey

The dangers to children of playing rugby

SIR – As Allyson Pollock notes, rugby is associated with rare but potentially catastrophic injuries, notably to the head and spinal cord.

No data exist to quantify the risk to schoolchildren playing rugby in Britain. Professor Pollock’s study of 470 school-age children in five Scottish schools found that there were 11 “time-loss” injuries – requiring an absence from the sport – per 1,000 hours of rugby played. She estimated that a “typical schoolboy” plays approximately 15 hours of rugby each year.

Many schoolchildren will feel disinclined to play rugby, and this should be respected. But others will relish the challenge that rugby offers and this, too, deserves respect.

Rugby authorities ought to commit themselves to a systematic reporting system for all injuries to children. This would set out the true risks and identify ways in which they can be mitigated, allowing parents and young people to make informed decisions about the sport.

Dr Adam Irwin
London SW1



Globe and Mail:

Michael Bell

To respond to terror, we must distinguish its three varieties

Irish Times:

Sir, – Surely it is proper, certainly no less than polite, to respect a person’s right to believe whatever they want – so long as that belief does no harm to others. Whether we should respect the belief itself is quite another matter. If some people wish to, and are free to, perpetrate fairy tales in the guise of truth, why should not others be equally free to ridicule those fairy tales? The plain fact is – and open any history book or today’s paper to confirm this – religion breeds zealots, and zealots breed bloodshed. The sooner the concept of blasphemy is discarded, the sooner we might laugh fanatics into their grave. But I don’t think it will happen soon, people being as they are. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – I abhor the terrorism which has shattered the lives of people in Paris and previously throughout the world. Equally I am in wholehearted agreement with the finely balanced, non-confrontational views of both Edward Horgan and Richard Coffey (January 10th). Freedom of expression, yes; but freedom to provoke ill-feeling or insult, no. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – According to article 44.1 of the Constitution, “the State acknowledges that the homage of public worship is due to Almighty God. It shall hold His Name in reverence, and shall respect and honour religion”.

This clause does not differ at all from the fundamental tenet of Islam, namely, submission to Allah (the Arabic word for “God”).

If you accept article 44.1, you cannot logically object to the ban on blasphemy (article 40.6.1.i). – Yours, etc,



Sir, – Una Mullally displays jaw-dropping double standards in her recent column (“Why a referendum on blasphemy is long overdue”, Opinion & Analysis, January 12th). She argues in favour of freedom of expression and correctly says that “sacred cows are there to be slaughtered”; however she clearly doesn’t believe that freedom of expression should apply to the upcoming referendum on same-sex marriage, judging by her recent columns on that issue.

For example, in January of last year she used your pages to call for the establishment of a body which would monitor the views expressed by those opposed to same-sex marriage, saying that “there is a need for an independent homophobia watchdog to monitor the inevitable destructive rhetoric that will colour one side of the debate” (“Homophobia watchdog needed before marriage equality referendum”, Opinion & Analysis, January 20th). She went on to say that to oppose same-sex marriage publicly, in any terms whatsoever, was to inflict “psychological trauma” on gay people. So clearly, the establishment of such a “watchdog” would lead to all opposition to same-sex marriage being removed from the airwaves.

How do such sentiments accord with her views on freedom of expression? Is it the case that only those views with which Ms Mullaly agrees are worthy of protection? – Yours, etc,


Dublin 6W.

Sir, – Una Mullally’s article of January 12th is the first I’ve read since the Charlie Hebdo shootings that promotes the curtailment of free speech.

The author draws an unhelpful distinction between “freedom of expression” and “free speech” and takes solace from the fact that we don’t live in the US with an equivalent to their first amendment. Drawing the comparison to the United States should only be relevant to the extent that the American free speech provision is one to which we should aspire.

How is it justifiable, as Ms Mullally does, to call for freedom of speech for the ideas which you agree with and to insist on “hate speech” for those that you don’t? Or the position that the Catholic faith should be “knocked off its pedestal” but that “for some to criticise Islam, their enthusiasm is born from their own intolerance ”?

It’s clear that not only is the author comfortable to decide on what can and can’t be said, she also confidently intuits the real motivation informing what certain individuals actually say; criticism of Islam, she perceives, is an act of bigotry which bears no resemblance to the criticism of other faiths.

The correct response to Charlie Hebdo shootings should be to promote free speech to the greatest extent possible and to “knock off their pedestals” the illiberal liberals who wish to control it. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 8.

Sir, – I appreciate the point Una Mullally was trying to make in her column of January 12th, and I agree with much of what she said. But she glossed rather quickly over the distinction between “infringing freedom of expression” and “protecting from hate speech”.

In this debate I, like many others, find it difficult to see the difference: when people are attacked on religious grounds, it is in the name of “freedom of expression”, but if people are insulted because of their sexual orientation, social class or race, it is “hate speech” and must be banned and punished. Who decides the difference? Do not all people, regardless of race, sexual orientation or belief, deserve equal respect? What am I missing here? – Yours, etc,



Dublin 6.

Sir, – If there is still freedom of speech in this country isn’t it about time our Government taxed it? – Yours, etc,



Dublin 16.

Sir, – Following last Sunday’s show of unity in France against terrorism and the demonstration of strength in numbers, could the newspapers and TV stations of Europe show a similar unity against real and implied threats by publishing cartoons from Charlie Hebdo on an agreed date?

I feel that self-censorship is already in place and we must fight this. Murderers cannot dictate what we read. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 14.

Sir, – After condemning the terror attacks in Paris, Dr Ali Selim bravely stated that he would seek legal advice if any sources in the Irish media published, or republished, an insulting image of Muhammad (“Ali Selim urges media not to republish Charlie Hebdo cartoons”, January 7th). This responsible act should be welcomed rather than berated. If an Irish media source knows that there will be a measured response to the publication of an insulting satirical image then perhaps it will think before it prints. On the other hand, if a senior Irish Islamic scholar is seen to be stepping up to defend a deeply held religious position in the face of a worldwide outcry in defence of “democracy and free speech”, then fanatical elements will also have reason to refrain from knee-jerk reactions. The question we should all ask ourselves is, what kind of society could possibly emerge when people request free rein to knowingly incite other sections of their community? – Yours, etc,




Sir, – Your online report on the latest issue of Charlie Hebdo – which depicts an image of Muhammad on its cover – is illustrated not by the cartoon but by a photograph of the magazine’s staff.

Would not a blank space have been more appropriate? – Yours, etc,




Sir, – There is much talk and comment lately on the so-called “right to offend”. I have always thought of this as a rather strange notion. I preface my comments by saying that, of course, publications such as Charlie Hebdo have a right to publish anything that they see fit.

However, surely there can be no such thing as a “right to offend” since offence is fundamentally something that is taken rather than given. One can no more insist on a right to offend than one can insist on a “right to amuse”.

I am not merely being pedantic here. If we insist on Charlie Hebdo’s “right to offend”, I think that we are legitimising the view that some of their images are objectively and universally offensive. This is nonsense, as many people, presumably including some who happen to be Muslim, will find nothing offensive about any of the aforementioned images. If other people desire not to take offence at Charlie Hebdo, they have a simple solution – don’t read the magazine. This is surely a much easier solution than attempting to kill everyone from whom you take offence. Of course, in reality the killings had nothing to do with the offensiveness or lack thereof of some images. – Yours, etc,



Co Galway.

Sir, – May I express concern at your report of an agreement on defence co-operation between Ireland and the UK, due to be signed later this month (“Ireland and UK agree historic defence agreement”, January 12th). Currently, there is a deployment of eight Army personnel as part of a joint contingent under the umbrella of the Royal Irish Regiment in Mali.

The presence of Army personnel operating under British command might be construed as conferring approval of current British wars overseas and must be considered repugnant to Ireland’s policy of neutrality. The formal presence of Army personnel alongside British soldiers blurs the independence and sovereignty of the Army and sends out the message that Irish and British armies are under single command and the State is just a devolved British administration. It amounts to a surrender of sovereign control over the Defence Forces to a foreign army. Indeed, some may interpret the State’s involvement with British forces as a further sign of incremental Commonwealth re-entry.

The Army is not an imperial army. It was born out of the struggle for independence from British rule. It is an Army that has proudly and honourably served on peacekeeping missions under a UN mandate and 84 of her soldiers have given their lives on these missions.

Army soldiers have served wherever required in the world in a selfless and heroic manner for more than 50 years, not as a predatory army but as peacekeepers, acknowledged worldwide for their impartiality and professionalism and are a source of pride to Ireland. Their independence and sovereignty should not be compromised by formal associations with British or any other imperial military forces. – Yours, etc,


Templeogue, Dublin 6W.

A chara, – Regarding Prof Ted Hurley’s call for newly qualified maths graduates to be offered a bonus to pursue teaching, perhaps a more appropriate incentive would be the prospect of a career as a maths teacher (“Call to pay maths graduates bonus to go into teaching”, January 11th).

Unfortunately the reality for most recently qualified maths teachers is that they face years of career uncertainty in casual, part-time employment in our schools, often looking at unemployment at the end of May each year.

As a result, many take their degrees and education qualifications to England or the Middle East where there are prospects of full-time, permanent employment.

Others, disillusioned with the lack of opportunity for full-time employment in education, have changed direction and moved towards careers in finance or technology.

I wonder if the University of Limerick, which is offering courses in order to upskill maths graduates to teaching qualification standards, has compiled any data regarding the success of its own education and maths graduates in obtaining full-time employment in Ireland. Likewise, does the Teaching Council have any data on the types of contracts being offered to the 5,000 teachers on its professional register who satisfy the subject criteria for maths?

Prof Hurley makes the point that while almost half of the maths and education graduates of NUIG who went into teaching got permanent positions in the UK, those who stayed in Ireland were in temporary or part-time posts.

Ireland is losing its maths and education graduates simply because their career prospects here are very poor. A €5,000 bonus is no substitute for a full-time secure position in a school. – Is mise,



Dublin 24.

Sir, – Could we please be clear on one crucial point regarding the likelihood of Syriza winning the upcoming Greek election? The possibility that a Syriza victory might lead to Greece exiting the euro zone (a “Grexit”) is being used as a threat to persuade voters to support the existing government, as Syriza would allegedly cause further economic disaster. The Germans are saying it; the EU is saying it; Taoiseach Enda Kenny is saying it. It seems only one party is not saying it – Syriza. Its leader, Alexis Tsipras, has consistently said that he wants to remain within the euro zone. But he also wants to redress the unnecessary hardship caused to Greece by the current austerity measures, which would mean renegotiating the terms of the bailout.

Mr Tsipras wants to assert Greek identity and self-determination. Nothing disloyal in that. The issue, as even Mr Kenny admits, is one for Greek voters, not for puppet-masters and scaremongers outside Greece who use untruths to secure a phoney result. The wider issue – whether the euro zone is stable or even valid – is not a priority with Greek voters. Charity (in Greek, philanthropy) begins in the home. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – “This is not the person that was my late father. It was not the Sean Doherty that represented the people of Roscommon”, asserts his daughter Rachel in Steven Carroll’s piece on the Doherty family’s reaction to last Sunday’s drama Charlie (“Sean Doherty’s daughter criticises ‘salacious’ drama”, January 12th).

I beg to differ.

While not doubting for one minute that Mr Doherty was a loving father and husband who entered public life to do good by the people of Roscommon, he, like many other good and intelligent men, left their high ideals behind during the Haughty years.

The programme was not about the life of Sean Doherty but about Charlie and those who supported the low standards in high places at the time.

His daughter reminds us that she was 12 at the time of the events depicted. Well I was older . Old enough to feel like I was living in a South American dictatorship without the sunshine.

Mr Doherty played his part in creating that environment, and while eventually outing his former leader, his late intervention does not erase the events, which are a matter of record, for which he will be remembered.

If his daughter wants a career in politics, she will have to get used to that fact and move on to achieve better things in her career. In that I wish her well. – Yours, etc,


Malahide, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Michael Canney (January 13th) seems to suggest that uprooting our current economic system is a good idea in the context of the global threat of human-made climate change. While we all have to do our part, sadly it is not small nations like Ireland, but rather big ones like China, Russia, India and the United States, that are producing the most significant carbon emissions, and that need to get their act together.

With that in mind, it makes little difference to the polar ice caps whether we in Ireland elect a responsible government that will continue to expand our economy, reduce unemployment, and restore the public finances to some semblance of sanity, or whether we squander our hard-won “stability” by electing a smorgasbord of Independents in the hope that such TDs might coalesce around some shared policies and competently run the country. – Yours, etc,


Sandymount, Dublin 4.

Sir, – In response to Austin Savage’s call (January 12th) on schools to teach children “chivalry and courtesy”, most teachers are too preoccupied with maintaining a semblance of control over pupils whose parents have failed to instil these values – which is why on class trips, especially on public transport, teachers will usually insist that children remain seated at all times! – Yours, etc,



Dublin 9.

Irish Independent:

French leader Francois Hollande said Islam was not to blame for the 'Charlie Hebdo' attack
French leader Francois Hollande said Islam was not to blame for the ‘Charlie Hebdo’ attack

I applaud the admirable endurance of French citizens and Francois Hollande for distancing Islam from the atrocious attack on ‘Charlie Hebdo’. The French president’s statement is clear evidence of the triumph of ethics and mores over moral depravity.

  • Go To

The unjustified killing of innocent civilians, mass violence and restrictions on freedoms are reprehensible.

However, we should not conflate freedom of expression with satirising the Prophet of Islam, offending in the process the sacred beliefs of over a billion people.

The French Revolution took place to bring societal and political changes and unleash the ideals of freedom and equality.

Also, those who argue for the right to ridicule Islam should ask themselves whether it is right to satirise the Holocaust and question the number of those who perished at the hands of Nazis.

We should stand united and steadfast in the face of provocative acts from anyone, under any assumption. Despite our differences, we, human beings, cherish an open intellectual dialogue and mutual understanding and strive for a lasting and just peace.

Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob

Amman, Jordan


States kill more than terrorists

After seeing the sad events in France recently, I have become very concerned at the coverage then, and since. As is usually the case with these events, there is a serious overreaction, and the important questions are never asked. Questions like “why did this happen?” and “what do we understand of our foreign policies?”

Britain and France have an appalling history in regards to the Middle East and elsewhere around the world. They have carved up the world map through history for their own interests, created divisions amongst communities (especially in Palestine), and on top of this, are two of the biggest arms sellers on Earth.

As Noam Chomsky says, “if you want to reduce terrorism in the world, then we should stop participating in it”. The idea that terrorism is only committed by a few people with small arms and explosives is biased. Armies, or state terror, kill far more civilians than a few fanatics ever will. You’ve only got to look at Israel, and its recent slaughter of over 2,000 people in Gaza to see this.

Why are the words extremism and fundamentalism only ever used against Muslims?

We should all scrutinise our military, and how our government’s policies have a devastating effect on other nations around the world. Then, perhaps, things will start getting safer for everyone.

Colin Crilly

London, UK


No tax on free speech – yet

If there is still free speech in this country, isn’t it about time our Government taxed it?

Ivor Shorts

Rathfarnham, Dublin 16


Paris attacks a warning to us all

Most commentators miss the big picture. ‘Charlie Hebdo’ was just the rationale for this attack on our freedoms by radical Muslims, intent on destroying our way of life and replacing it with a Caliphate.

Whether it’s a cartoon, a Jewish supermarket, men at prayer, a video, a Coptic church, people waiting for a tram or running a marathon, there will always be a reason for Islamic terrorists to resort to violence and murder.

The target is incidental to the act. Just as Islam means “submission,” the focus of radical Islam is the submission of the rest of society to Islam.

This should be a warning to Ireland.

Len Bennett

Montreal, Quebec, Canada


Blasphemy and the Constitution

If the following content were to be removed from the Constitution, it might serve the Irish people better:

(i) The references to God in the preamble; (ii) The reference to God in Article 6 (All powers of government, legislative, executive and judicial, derive, under God, from the people…); (iii) Article 40.6.1.i (Blasphemy is a criminal offence); (iv) Article 40.3.3 (Acknowledging the right to life of the unborn); (v) Article 41.2 (The special position of the woman’s life within the home), which discriminates against fathers.

Furthermore, swearing on the bible could be replaced with the question “As a fellow human being, do you swear to tell the truth … etc.” Human fellowship is as powerful as the worship of any god, as was shown in Paris last week.

Alison Hackett

Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin

According to Article 44. 1 of the Constitution, “the State acknowledges that the homage of public worship is due to Almighty God. It shall hold His Name in reverence, and shall respect and honour religion.”

This clause does not differ at all from the fundamental tenet of Islam, namely, submission to Allah ( the Arabic word for “God”).

If you accept Art. 44.1, you cannot logically object to the ban on blasphemy (Art.40.6.1.i).

John A Murphy

Douglas Road, Cork


From flour bags to silk shirts

As the RTE drama ‘Charlie” mentions Charles Haughey’s taxpayer-funded Charvet shirts, perhaps someone might be kind enough to donate one to the County Sligo Museum – that is if they have not all been discarded.

I mention Sligo because of its long association with the Pollexfen flour milling family, the ancestors of “Willy and Lily and Lollie” Yeats.

Pollexfen’s “Pride of the West” flour was used in every house throughout Connacht – didn’t CJ once claim to be a Mayo man?

At the Sligo Museum, CJ’s Charvet shirt could be displayed alongside a linen flour bag of the type used by Pollexfen’s flour mills – out of which the people of rural Ireland hand-made their shirts, sheets and pillow cases.

The contrast between the old and new Ireland will indeed be of historic importance to future generations.

What a boast for our generation: “We went from flour bags to silk shirts!”

Declan Foley

Berwick, Australia


Stephanie’s goal was no sham

Ivan Yates has said on radio that there is no way Stephanie Roche deserved to win the Puskas Goal of the Year Award and described her inclusion in the final three as “sham amateurism”.

If Ivan still had a bookie shop open, I would make a bet with him that if Stephanie moves to England, it is more likely to be as a professional footballer than it would be to declare herself bankrupt!

Seamus McLoughlin

Keshcarrigan, Co Leitrim


Tribunal process is in tatters

On March 29, 2011, you published a letter of mine arguing that establishing Tribunals to inquire “into certain matters” caused untold reputational damage to the parties being investigated.

I made the point that allegations could be made against anyone and the impugned party could have to wait months or even years to counter such allegations.

All this in the full glare of the media – and the media loved it!

I further argued that where criminal behaviour is suspected, only the normal criminal investigative procedure should be initiated together with the evidential burden that goes with such investigation.

Almost four years on, flowing from a recent Supreme Court decision, the Mahon/Flood Tribunal is now redacting “findings of fact” against certain parties and is paying their Tribunal-related costs.

And there are probably more redactions to come.

In my opinion, the conclusion that, after hundreds of millions in tax punts and euro, the entire Tribunal process in these matters is now in tatters is inescapable.

Innate humility would normally prevent me from saying “I told you so”. Not this time.

Larry Dunne

Rosslare Harbour, Co Wexford

Irish Independent


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