4 Febuary 2015 Dryer
A quiet day Dryer repair man comes but can’t fix the dryer. Replacement comes on Monday
Mary Lyon, who has died aged 89, was a geneticist whose work led to a fundamental shift in the study of inherited diseases such as haemophilia.
In the late 1950s Mary Lyon was studying the effects of radiation on mice at the Medical Radiobiological Research Unit at Harwell, Oxfordshire, when she noticed a puzzling feature in rats with a spontaneous mutant gene specific to the X chromosome. Females who carried the gene were variegated: some of the affected males died in embryo, while others were born with white coats.
There was one male among the group, born, like his female counterparts, with a mottled coat. By breeding from the mottled male mouse and studying his mottled and white-coated daughters, Mary Lyon worked out that the father must be carrying two different types of cells, some with the mutant X chromosome and some not.
She concluded that his daughters were similarly affected, but that one of the two X chromosomes was switched off at random early on in the development of the female embryo.
She dubbed this phenomenon “X-chromosome inactivation”. Later, it also became known as “lyonization” in her honour. The implications went far beyond mice. Lyonization explained how tortoiseshell cats got their peculiar colouring: they were a “mosaic” (denoting the presence of two or more genetically distinct types of cells), with some cells determining black fur and others determining orange fur.
It also transformed the understanding of how genetic conditions were passed on and their symptoms expressed across the generations. When lyonization occurred in women who were carriers of the recessive gene for haemophilia, for example, they could exhibit mild symptoms of the disease such as bruising and excessive bleeding. In 1997 Mary Lyon received the Wolf Prize in Medicine for her hypothesis: the first and only British woman to do so.
Mary Francis Lyon was born in Norwich on May 15 1925. Both her parents were from working class families; her father Clifford, a civil servant, was the son of a barrel maker, while her maternal grandfather had been a shoemaker. Due to the itinerant nature of her father’s job the family moved home frequently during her childhood, and Mary attended schools in Yorkshire and Surrey before starting secondary education at the King Edward VI High School in Birmingham. It was there that she first became interested in science, after winning a set of books on natural history for an essay she had written. In 1943 she went up to Girton College, Cambridge, to read Zoology, Physiology and Biochemistry. As women would not receive full membership of the university until 1948, she graduated, aged 23, with a “titular” degree, one of just 500 women out of more than 5,000 students.
She went on to do a PhD with RA Fisher, Cambridge’s Professor of Genetics at that time, and completed her studies with Douglas Falconer at the University of Edinburgh. Her thesis was on the genetics behind a balance defect that she had noticed in the pallid mutant mouse. In 1950 she moved to Edinburgh’s Institute of Animal Genetics and began to study the health effects of atomic radiation on mice gathered in the aftermath of the Japan bombings. Some suffered from ataxia (loss of movement); others had inner ear problems and ran in endless circles. She also conducted extensive work on a genetic peculiarity found on chromosome 17 in wild-type mice.
After five years she and her team, led by Toby Carter, moved to the Medical Research Council Radiobiological Research Unit. Upon Carter’s retirement in 1962, she became head of the genetics division, a position she held for the next 24 years. She was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1973, and received the Society’s Royal Medal in 1984. Last year the Genetics Society created the Mary Lyon Medal, awarded for outstanding research in the field.
Her brother and sister survive her.
Mary Lyon, born May 15 1925, died December 25 2014
You report (30 January) the doubling of the number of schools in England failing the poorest children at GCSE level, reflecting changes to exam rules. These findings are important, as schools policy has long been given pride of place in British politicians’ attempts to increase social mobility. But if we as a country are interested in revolutionising poor children’s life chances, we must recognise that school comes too late for most of them. Instead of ringfencing schools’ budgets, we should be planning to increase budgets for the first five years – the foundation years of a child’s life.
A weight of research shows that, probably at three but certainly at five, it is possible to predict the life-chances outcomes for most children. Of course there are exceptions, and some children, thankfully, fly despite their backgrounds. The founders of the labour movement strove to increase life chances for poor children. Thanks to this growing body of research, we now have a much better idea how this great objective might be achieved.
As a country we pay lip service, but are still politically unwilling to think through the implications of these findings on the enduring impact of experiences and opportunities in the early years. The government’s decision not to maintain the ringfence on monies paid to local authorities to develop foundation-years services is symptomatic of this.
If we are serious about significantly increasing social mobility, our political parties need to put before the electorate plans on building the effectiveness of foundation-years services and detailing how the costs would be covered.
With 93 days to the election, is this too much to ask of our political leadership?
Frank Field MP
• The claim that “the government’s flagship policies for improving schools … have had little or no effect” (Report, 26 January) couldn’t be more wrong. Unfortunately, the effects have been almost entirely malign.
Government education policy since 2010, written in haste to grab tomorrow’s headlines, has resulted in millions (if not billions) of pounds in public money being wasted on free-school and academy vanity projects. Children’s educations and teachers’ careers have been damaged and disrupted as their flagship schools are found to be unfit for purpose and closed. Communities have been divided by bitter, forced-academisation interventions. In the absence of strategic planning to meet the educational needs of all local children, thousands of primary age pupils have no school places.
The list of the victims of this Tory experiment in disruption theory is long. However, it may be that all the chaos and confusion have simply provided an effective smokescreen for the primary purpose of the piecemeal privatisation of state education in our country. Since May 2010, on a scale not seen since the Enclosure Acts of the 18th and 19th centuries, billions of pounds’ worth of publicly owned land and assets have quietly been transferred to a bewildering number of trusts, boards and companies whose members are accountable only to the secretary of state for education, while billions of pounds of public money sits in the deposit accounts of free schools and academies.
Government policies have not improved our children’s schools but they have been extremely effective in transferring public money and assets to private pockets.
• Zoe Williams is right to pour scorn on the education secretary’s ridiculous “war on illiteracy and innumeracy” (It is time ministers realised that teachers do want to teach, 2 February). Presumably Nicky Morgan is borrowing her metaphor from the “wars” on drugs and terror; sadly, she can expect just about the same level of success. Moreover, she appears to be fighting a war from the 1950s. What on earth, for example, is the point of requiring children to learn the 11 and 12 times tables and to “perform long division”? While she’s at it, why not bring back the rod, pole and perch, and all the other outdated weights and measures that used to adorn the back of exercise books? Oh and let’s ensure that every child understands the dangers of the pendent participle and the split infinitive!
As for her and David Cameron’s threat of more sackings and forced academy conversions for schools which fail at this nonsense, obviously neither of them has taken seriously the latest report of the education select committee, whose (Conservative) chair has just stated that “Current evidence does not prove that academies raise standards overall or for disadvantaged children” adding: “While some chains have clearly raised attainment, others achieve worse outcomes creating huge disparities within the academy sector and compared to other mainstream schools.”
• In their war on illiteracy and innumeracy, the Conservatives are displaying their ignorance about the severe challenges that many of our schools are facing (Tory education plans ‘are election gimmicks’, 2 February). Children unable to progress in maths because of the irreversible and often hidden brain damage caused by foetal alcohol syndrome; children arriving into reception class unable to speak because they have spent their early years in front of a TV; children too tired or hungry to stay awake because of the chaos and dysfunction they have experienced overnight at home; children too high on the cola and sweets they have had for breakfast to be able to concentrate. I have seen all of this – just within one school. These are problems that education alone cannot fix. Schools have to work in partnership with other local agencies such as health, housing and social care.
Our politicians are disingenuous when they claim that the answer lies in increased academisation and a change of leadership. The answer is to strengthen and improve local authorities so that they can work in partnership with schools to give children and families the joined-up care and support that they need to flourish. Without this, getting every child to be able to perform long division and read a novel by the age of 11 is pie in the sky. We should be looking north to the quiet revolution taking place in Scotland where collaboration not competition is at the heart of education policy.
European Forum for Freedom in Education
• Is the cost per pupil at Eton et al to be cut by 7% over the period of the next parliament (Budget for schools will face cuts, Tories admit, 3 February)? If not, how much subsidy will the taxpayer be giving to pupils at public schools, while those at state schools see their budgets reduced by up to 10% on the basis that austerity demands cuts in order to balance the books?
Rev Canon David Jennings
Canon theologian, Leicester Cathedral
• As a teacher who stood as a Labour candidate in the 2010 general election, I had to endure a number of awkward staffroom chats with colleagues apologising that they were “not going to vote Labour this time”. It seems that Tristram Hunt is determined that such conversations will be repeated up and down staffrooms this year (Green party’s education policies are outdated and ‘total madness’ – Labour, 26 January).
If wanting to see academies and free schools returned to local democratic accountability is “madness”, then many teachers and Labour councillors are mad. If wanting an end to the tyranny of the current Ofsted system is “madness”, then many head teachers and school governors are mad. If wanting to develop a high quality, age-appropriate early-years system is “madness”, then many parents and early-years practitioners are mad.
There are hundreds of teachers in every constituency. In mine, we have an excellent young teacher as a Labour candidate. But we will only succeed in getting teachers to vote Labour if the party is standing on a manifesto containing policy that inspires and excites teachers and parents. Attacking our opponents may be fun, but it doesn’t win hearts and minds in the staffroom, or at the school gate. When it starts to sound suspiciously like the teacher-bashing we had become used to under Michael Gove, then we really have a problem.
Labour candidate for Eastbourne, 2010 general election
• The Greens’ educational policies represent not just a coherent and legitimate position on schooling – they lean strongly towards the Finnish system which consistently outperforms all its European competitors in the OECD/Pisa tests – the global league table. Tristram Hunt’s dismissal is more to do with Labour being stuck with an out of date, technocratic agenda on schooling through lack of courage and imagination. Labour is so sold on the myth of engineered school improvement and brutal test regimes that it cannot see the damage being done to young people. While we “improve” schools, we diminish education. I’ll vote Labour to keep out the Tories – but I admire the Greens’ education policy.
Professor Saville Kushner
Faculty of education, University of Auckland
• Bravo, Zoe Williams. As she says, testing, targets and performance indicators misunderstand the nature of teaching and learning, and are a cynical waste of children’s time (and, it may be added, a profound waste of state funds). Significantly, she goes on to say “The most infuriating thing is how all this goes unchallenged.”
It has, of course, been challenged – by the teacher unions and by academics whom Michael Gove called “the Blob”. But these challenges are rarely discussed in the media, probably because too many news commentators were educated outside the state system and so are ignorant of the professionalism and dedication of its teachers. Andrew Marr, for example, whom Williams notes expressed tacit approval for Morgan’s proposed new targets, was educated in independent schools in Scotland.
Perhaps there is hope in the statement by the Labour party that it believes “unleashing the moral mission and collective endeavour of teaching is the best way to improve our children’s life chances”. A good start would be to welcome the excellent education manifestoes of the National Union of Teachers and the National Association of Headteachers, as displayed on their respective websites.
Emeritus Professor Michael Bassey
Tory plans for primary education, including the imposition of punitive testing and the threats of head teacher removal and of academisation (Primary school pupils face new maths and grammar tests under Tories, 1 February), are not just an unrealisable ploy intended to capture the parent vote. They also threaten to exacerbate what is already a major problem – the difficulty of recruiting primary headteachers – into a catastrophic situation, especially in disadvantaged communities where principled, expert educational leadership is most needed. In an ideal world the aspirations parroted by Nicky Morgan ought to be realised, but in the world as we find it two factors prevent it – the difficulties, not primarily of their own or their teachers’ making, which some learners face; and the government’s inability to understand the nature of primary education and to give it the resources, the curriculum and the support it needs to provide an enabling education which goes well beyond “maths and grammar tests”.
Professor Colin Richards
Spark Bridge, Cumbria
•Is education policy being driven by fools? The idea that all 11-year-olds must know their multiplication tables as part of a revised testing system is sheer stupidity. It is a cruel farce. After 24 years as a headteacher I know that it is not possible. I think all 11-year-olds should know their tables. I always have and I have always taught multiplication tables – including learning by rote. But I also know not to expect a 100% success rate because there will always be some children who won’t or can’t learn their tabsles.
There is a simple fact that the government have failed to understand. What teachers teach and what children learn are not the same thing – and never have been. To think that children always learn what they are taught shows an amazing lack of knowledge and awareness. What will happen to all the headteachers who fail to meet the grade and have to be sacked? Does anyone outside our parliamentary lunatic asylum think that there are “super” heads who can achieve what the rest of us can’t? “Super” heads at best can bully a school into improving over the short term – a quick fix that looks good but can’t be sustained.
If it wasn’t just another kick in the teeth for teachers by badly advised ministers it would be laughable. Unfortunately it will cause even more teachers to question why they are working so hard to do their best and even more to leave what is becoming an unsustainable profession.
In light of Charlotte Higgins’ argument (Opera’s malaise doesn’t stop at the Coliseum, 2 February) that English National Opera would be better off in an auditorium with half the capacity of the 2,300-seat Coliseum, it’s worth recalling that in November 1963 Denys Lasdun was hired to design for Sadler’s Wells Opera (the forerunner of ENO) a theatre with 1,600 seats, only 50 more than at the company’s then base, Sadler’s Wells Theatre in Islington. This new opera house was to rise on the South Bank, alongside a twin-auditorium National Theatre. But in February 1966, with the cost of this publicly funded project soaring far above original estimates, the Labour government and Labour-controlled GLC shelved the opera component, forcing Lasdun back to his drawing board and Sadler’s Wells into seeking an existing, rather than purpose-built, venue in central London. In 1968, it chose the Coliseum.
Author, The National Theatre Story
• Charlotte Higgins fails to get to grips with the problem of opera “reinventing itself as a crucial part of our national cultural fabric”. The problem is there is no policy for the arts in England. Arts funding is now run like a fifth-rate hedge fund that every three years selects a national portfolio of arts organisations and then three years later unbundles them. In an age of austerity, the Royal Opera House and ENO exist cheek by jowl and in 2015 will receive public funding of circa £37m. If two A&E units existed side by side, one would be closed or relocated immediately. A national policy for the arts would ensure equitable distribution of funding across art forms and regions.
• The implications of Charlotte Higgins’s analysis stretch to a much wider tranche of the contemporary arts, in a society faced with growing social inequalities, climate change and general malaise. The “stronger sense of mission” Higgins advocates for ENO is no less a need across most of our arts communities. Arts Social Action can confirm her conclusion that it is contemporary theatre which points the way. David Hare’s 2009 The Power of Yes at the National Theatre turned the 2008 financial meltdown into a synthesis of gripping drama and public revelation. More recently the Royal Court’s 2071 collaboration between stage director Katie Mitchell and climate-science professor Chris Rapley brought a riveting cocktail of drama and climate change. Higgins’ nostalgia for when “ENO stood for something exciting, radical, modern … in the days when it was cheap, it was young, it was classless…” should reverberate across the wider arts scene. The world moves; so must we.
Arts Social Action
While we agree with the government that there is desperate need for additional housing and want to see empty buildings brought back into use, we are concerned that recent changes to vacant building credit will have unintended consequences in Westminster and other areas of central London (Property firms profit as home rules change, 2 February). While it may help encourage development in parts of the country which may not otherwise take place, for prime areas of central London such a one-size-fits-all approach is clearly flawed.
As well as removing an important element of developer contribution to the provision of affordable housing, further eroding the ability of people from a wide range of backgrounds to live in the heart of the capital, our concern is that these changes may result in yet more office space being lost to homes in central London, as it will encourage more office-to-residential conversions.
Westminster is one of the jewels of London’s economy, contributing nearly £56bn and hosting 14% of its jobs. However, in the last four years alone it has lost 1.8 million sq ft of office space to housing, with a further 3.7 million sq ft in the pipeline to be converted, which by industry calculations could result in a loss of up to 78,000 jobs.
I fear there may be a tipping point where the commercial heart of London becomes irreparably diminished. When big multinationals choose a new global HQ they want to be somewhere central with excellent transport connections, where they can recruit talent.
It’s illogical to spend billions on Crossrail so commuters can reach central London more quickly, while at the same time eroding the very jobs which those people would travel to. There is undoubtedly a need for new housing, but that cannot be done at the expense of jobs in the centre of the city, and we need to think carefully about the type of housing we are providing.
I therefore support Westminster city council’s stated opposition to the vacant building credit, and we are also urging the government to issue additional new guidance which encourages the retention or provision of office space in areas of significant commercial activity, such as central London, which serves as an engine for economic growth for both London and the UK economy as a whole.
Daniel Van Gelder
Chairman, Westminster Property Association
Re Patrick Russell’s agonised baseball query (Letters, 2 February), that wonderful Guardian-lover Marcus Cunliffe used to regale his American friends with the question: “What is the baseballing difference between George Washington and George III?” The answer: there’s no record that the first president of the US ever played the game, whereas Lady Hervey noted in 1748 of the young Prince George that she had seen him playing with the other royal children “at baseball, a play all who are or have been schoolboys are well acquainted with”. She noted also that “the ladies as well as the gentlemen join in the amusement”. There’s a full reference to be found in Cunliffe’s essay The Two Georges in his In Search of America: Transatlantic Essays 1951-1990.
Sir, There has been ill-informed speculation recently, in your columns and elsewhere, about the attitude of the Prince of Wales to the role of sovereign. His Royal Highness has always preferred not to comment on matters which relate to a future whose date is unknown, and would arise only after the death of his mother.
After half a century in public life, few could be better placed than His Royal Highness to understand the necessary and proper limitations on the role of a constitutional monarch. Should he be called to the throne, the Prince of Wales will be inspired by the examples of his mother and grandfather, while drawing also on his own experience of a lifetime of service. He will seek to continue his service to this country and the other realms, to the Commonwealth and to the wider world.
Principal Private Secretary to Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall
Sir, There has never been any question that the British sovereign must be above the political fray and ensure that no action or word could be seen as expressing political partiality. To assume that the Prince of Wales will, upon his accession, depart from that essential constitutional principle seems to be based on no more than hearsay (“Up in the Heir”, leader, Feb 3). That the prince has embraced a number of causes does not mean that he will continue to play exactly the same role when he becomes king. It is perfectly possible that he would be able to champion worthy objectives such as civilised housing, environmentalism and endeavouring to advance the disadvantaged without breaching any political conventions. In one sense this would be no different from the Queen clearly embracing Christianity.
We are fortunate that we have an heir to the throne who does engage with such issues. For a man of such evident humanity and compassion — with a proven ability to make a difference to so many lives — to be constantly abused and criticised is shameful.
Sir, Your leader summarises admirably the conundrum facing a future King Charles III if he persists in his apparent “evolving” desire to synthesise campaigning and kingship. There is a straightforward constitutional solution: Prince Charles the Campaigner should defer with immediate effect to his eldest son, who would thus in due course become King William V, in the image of both his grandmother and the younger generation that he so admirably represents.
Sir, You float the idea that, should he accede to the throne, Prince Charles would reign as Charles III. Surely in keeping with both his taste in architecture and his high regard for his grandmother it is much more likely that he would choose George VII.
Hayling Island, Hants
Sir, It is good that Prince Charles no longer wants to be involved in arms sales (News, Feb 3). However, in the past four years the government has licensed the sale of £3.8 billion of arms to the Saudis. Unless there is a fundamental change, this will continue, with or without Charles’s blessing.
Campaign Against Arms Trade
Sir, The British defence industry can point to many achievements over the years, including significant exports. It has created many jobs, and its research capacity is world-leading. If the prince declines to act on behalf of the defence industry, perhaps he should stop wearing his many ceremonial uniforms.
Sir, Why is everybody suddenly talking as though Prince Charles was about to accede to the throne? There seems no reason to doubt that the Queen is quite capable of emulating her mother and living to be 100, by which time her heir will be verging on 80. Until then, let us allow the poor fellow to go on expressing his honest opinions instead of sniping at him.
Bishop’s Stortford, Herts
Sir, We have had a flurry, a sprinkling and a dusting. Now, I fear, we are heading for a fall.
Walderton, W Sussex
Sir, I approve of Dr Weston-Davies’s suggested regimental names (letter, Feb 2). The army missed a trick when the Prince of Wales’s Regiment, the Green Howards and the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment amalgamated to become the Yorkshire Regiment in 2006. It should have become the Prince of Wales’s Green Wellingtons.
Sir, CCTV cameras should be in every abattoir, and slaughterhouses that violate basic animal rights should be closed (“Sheep hacked to death”, Feb 3). This incident reinforces my view that stunning must be made law.
Sir, Well said, Melanie Phillips: your view is a breath of fresh air (“The real myth is that all men are rapists”, Feb 2). I well remember one afternoon, after a client had been acquitted at the Old Bailey of rape, being called by an irate journalist, who had not been at the trial, demanding: “How would you feel if you were the girl’s father?”
I responded by asking: “And how would you feel if my innocent client had been wrongly convicted and you were his mother?” She conceded that she had not thought of the matter in that way. Nor, it would appear, has our director of public prosecutions.
Robin Grey, QC
SIR –It may be commendable of Davis Cameron to propose enforcing the improvement of schools judged to be “mediocre”.
However, such measures as attendance levels may contribute to this sort of judgment. If feckless parents will not get out of bed and send their children to school, how can even the best headteacher in the world make an improvement?
Mr Cameron needs to turn his attention to improving standards of parenting if he really wants to see the education system improve.
Barrie W Cooper
SIR – The Government must realise that unless parents are educated in their responsibilities for their children’s education, many schools will continue to decline, despite any well intended intervention .
K F Bolton
SIR – Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, boasts: “We now have 100,000 more six-year-olds able to read than when we came to office”. At what cost to our children does the Government pursue this target? Most children from other first-world countries have not even begun formal school education at that age, yet we are we still lagging behind later.
From my experience as a teacher, I believe we are continually pushing young children academically at the expense of spending quality time with them, speaking, listening and modelling language skills, allowing them to learn how to learn and enjoy learning, and, most importantly, letting them play and develop social skills.
Scarborough, North Yorkshire
SIR – That Nicky Morgan has to say that all children should know their multiplication tables before leaving primary school is quite shocking. After all, 50 years ago, this level of achievement was the norm.
Had there not been so much political meddling with our education system over the decades Mrs Morgan might not have needed to comment on this subject at all.
SIR – Why on should children, in 2015, be expected to know the 12-times table? Do we need to know that 12 pence make one shilling, and 72 pence make six shillings?
A better understanding of the decimal system .(for example, that 14 x 3 = 10 x 3 + 4 x 3 = 42) is far more important.
SIR – I remember a school inspector telling me that he was in a school where the children were chanting the times tables. He asked one little boy why he was singing “Da de da da”. The boy replied that he knew the tune but not the words.
SIR – Heathrow agrees with the businesses asking for a final decision from the Airports Commission on how to ensure Britain remains an aviation hub. Heathrow also supports Gatwick’s right to expand – but not at the expense of expanding Heathrow.
As Britain’s biggest port, Heathrow allows exporters and passengers from all over Britain access to global markets through connecting flights. That is why 27 chambers of commerce from across Britain see expansion at Heathrow as the only option to connect Britain to global growth.
But Heathrow is full. If expanded, it could be the most modern, efficient, sustainable and well-connected airport in the world, with up to 120 long-haul destinations and more regional flights, offering real competition and choice for passengers while keeping Britain at the heart of the global economy.
Chief Executive, Heathrow Airport
The two bronze statues together (The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge)
SIR – Surely there is a self-appointed French committee that can pronounce on the authenticity of the Rothschild bronzes. If they find against, the sculptures could be destroyed, as was the fate of an apparently fake “Chagall” painting.
SIR – I have high regard for Lord Winston, as a former colleague in the House of Lords and in my work with the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. But I take issue with his accusation that the Catholic Church “peddled” the view that a foetus or embryo should be treated as an unborn person.
Lord Winston declares in his article that he is an orthodox Jew. If the foetus is not regarded as personal, why has Judaism, as well as Christianity, always prohibited abortion? This is without mentioning the perfectly good scientific arguments for treating an embryo with special respect, which the HFE Act requires.
Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali
SIR – Many children of broken marriages suffer mental difficulties, through not knowing which parent is going to love and care for them. If the proposals before Parliament for “three-parent children” are allowed, how will the children feel about being bits and pieces of three individuals?
B E Norton
Royal Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire
SIR – GM crops, bad; GM children, good. How very strange.
David J Cooke
SIR –The BBC’s decision to merge the commissioning of religion and ethics programming with history could not have come at a worse time.
From religious efforts at tackling Ebola in west Africa, to the interfaith solidarity that has so far helped prevent the horrors of the Paris killings being imported to Britain, religion remains a force for change.
Religious literacy is essential to the diversity we treasure in Britain – and an antidote to the extremism and intolerance that threaten it. The BBC plays a key role by its robust and rich coverage of religious life. We call on it to reinstate independent religion and ethics programming.
Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner
Senior Rabbi, Movement for Reform Judaism
Dr Shuja Shafi
Secretary General, Muslim Council of Britain
Rt Rev David Walker
Bishop of Manchester
Professor Linda Woodhead
Study in yellow
SIR – I decided to add the controversial yellow car to a watercolour sketch of Arlington Row, Bibury, that I did some time ago. I think it has improved the picture.
Because of its renown, this will be a talking point for future generations. I will secrete a copy of the Telegraph’s account of “Corsagate” behind it.
Grass is always greener for inquisitive peacocks
SIR – Tim Soar suggests that peacock safety along busy roads would be improved by less signage and more fencing.
If peacocks cannot see through a fence, they will fly up and perch on it to see what is on the other side. A wide asphalt runway is a most inviting place to land on gracefully. I topped my six-foot panel fence with another 18in of chicken wire, and the peacocks soon learnt their boundaries.
I am now going to put up a sign reading: “Foxes – there are no peacocks here, you have eaten the lot.”
SIR – Why are Network Rail, First Great Western and Westminster council, among others, installing outdated technology in their car parks?
Contactless payment by credit card is faster and easier to use for people of any age. It is even easier than using coins, particularly for those with arthritic fingers.
Bread and butter issue
Samantha Cameron has guests round for breakfast as part of her support for the charity Contact A Family (PA)
SIR – The photograph of Samantha Cameron having breakfast at home was marred by the large tub of Lurpak on the table.
Come on David and Samantha – buy British dairy products.
St Mary Bourne, Hampshire
Names in brief – what parents cannot plan for
SIR – My parents gave me a name that they thought unlikely to be shortened. Never has so much confusion derived from so few letters.
Brighton, East Sussex
SIR – My mother couldn’t stand the adding of “y” to names – Anny, Suzy – so named me Wendy. Everyone calls me Wend.
SIR – My parents gave me my name because it couldn’t be shortened and they hoped I would live up to the meaning it had then. My grandchildren, to their credit, have never asked why I was so named.
Rev Gay Horrex
SIR – Wodehouseans will remember: “There’s some raw work done at the baptismal font, Jeeves.”
Bulmer, North Yorkshire
Globe and Mail:
Sir, – The need for robust anti-discrimination policies in every area of our public services has again been highlighted by the omissions in the Department of Education’s database for primary school pupils highlighted by your correspondent Joe Humphreys (“‘Multi-racial’ oversight on school database questionnaire admitted”, February 3rd). It appears the decision to have “white Irish” as the only designated Irish category was a genuine mistake; however the incident shows our public services still seem unaware that 17 per cent of people who call Ireland home were born elsewhere. This apparent oversight again raises questions about whether proper training is being provided to prevent inequality, discrimination or racism in the delivery of education, health, policing and the many other areas where the State interacts with our daily lives.
During the past year, 13 per cent of the 214 incidents of racism and discrimination reported to the Immigrant Council of Ireland occurred when people where accessing or using public or community services. Trade unions have carried out valuable awareness-raising work in this area; it is time management in the departments and agencies of the State stepped up to the mark to ensure that all public services are delivered equally, fairly and justly.
The Immigrant Council of Ireland is asking that each public agency would have an anti-racism strategy which should be accessible online and be available to view at all frontline offices. – Yours, etc,
Andrew Street, Dublin 2.
Sir, – While I am discouraged by the Department of Education’s surprisingly short-sighted classification of personal ethnic identity in Ireland, I was relieved to see Joe Humphreys drawing attention to this difficult to discuss matter.
Discussing inter-ethnic relations is often laden with complexities and gradations. In my work, I have researched social interactions in multi-ethnic primary schools across Ireland and designed a questionnaire for children on the topic. Deciding on appropriate, considerate and inclusive terminology that was also concise and “quantifiable” for the purpose of survey analysis was challenging, to say the very least.
What the Department of Education failed to recognise in their crude and exclusive marriage of “whiteness” and “Irishness” is the undisputable fact that now, more than ever, Ireland’s children are not all white – Irish children born to migrant parents, children adopted by two multigenerational Irish parents, children born to ethnic minorities long resident in the country. Many are not white; all are Irish – by birth, by nationality, by culture.
The inclusion of a few extra categories on a survey item (ie Black Irish, Asian Irish, etc) plus two additional questions on the child’s country of birth and parents’ countries of birth (to identify first and second generation migrants) might make analysing more nebulous, and it would inevitably take up additional space on an already tight questionnaire. But it would also allow for thousands of non-white Irish children to classify their identity in a slightly less restrictive, more truthful manner. Still crude, still constricting, still dreadfully limited with regards to describing ethnicity but still infinitely better than “white Irish” or “not Irish”. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The way Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil have been undermining the present holder of the office has been a disgrace. A stand has to be taken to ensure that both the dignity and impartiality of the office are recognised and respected. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – TDs should know that the Ceann Comhairle does not have the same options as a current affairs interviewer, who merely says “We have run out of time”, thanks the panel, and moves to the next item for discussion. Those who stand against the Ceann Comhairle are standing against the democratic process. – Yours, etc,
THOMAS J CLARKE,
Ayrfield, Dublin 13.
Sir, – I have no party affiliations but I despair when the politicians descend into petulance at the most minor of perceived infringements. I played amateur soccer for many years and if you opened your mouth to even question a referee’s decision, you were booked. Even your own manager roared at you to shut up.
Referees make mistakes. They are human but generally get most of it right. Players accepted this. Compare and contrast the game with behaviour in the Dáil. We have players disputing every decision; crying foul when none was committed; refusing to leave the pitch when when red-carded; and now walking off the pitch, saying they want another referee. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – We recently returned from the Holy Land as part of a delegation of international bishops. What we saw affected us deeply. We witnessed the tragic consequences of the failure of the repeated efforts of politicians to advance peace. The ongoing conflict assaults the dignity of both Palestinians and Israelis, but in a particular way our commitment to the poor calls us to lift up the suffering people in Gaza. The conditions in which people in Gaza are living are an assault on human dignity. Tens of thousands of families lack adequate shelter or means to feed their children. In the latest freezing weather, at least two infants died of exposure. The continuing blockade means rebuilding within a reasonable time-period will be impossible, and creates intolerable levels of unemployment, pushing people into deeper poverty and contributing to desperation that further undermines Israelis’ legitimate hope for security. And yet in the midst of this devastation hope somehow remains. This is evident in the work of volunteers who are helping people to rebuild their lives. We had the opportunity to visit Trócaire projects in both Gaza and the West Bank.
We take this opportunity to thank people in Ireland for their ongoing and generous support for these projects. In the coming months we will continue to oppose the building of the proposed wall in the Cremisan Valley that would result in the loss of the lands and livelihoods of many families. We will also continue to oppose expansion of the settlement programme, illegal under international law, examples of which we witnessed acutely in Hebron. Its impact on the freedom of movement of Palestinians and the confiscation of lands is simply unjust.
We urge public officials to be creative, to take new approaches, to build bridges, not walls.
We must humanise the conflict by fostering more interaction between Israelis and Palestinians. People on both sides of the conflict want the same thing – a dignified life worthy of the human person. Peace will only come when all parties respect the fact that the Holy Land is sacred to three faiths and home to two peoples. – Yours, etc,
of Cashel and Emly;
Bishop of Kerry;
Maynooth, Co Kildare.
Sir, – A Leavy (February 3rd) makes the common mistake of using the term “Greek debt” as a catch-all for the debts imposed on Greece by the troika without acknowledging there are two elements to debt in Greece, and Ireland or Spain. One part of the debt relates to the cost of running the actual state itself and providing the services citizens should rightly expect from a wealthy advanced EU member state and the other part relates to the debts added to the taxpayer to pay for losses incurred in the private banking sector. You hear it all the time when reporters ask a German taxpayer “should the Greeks pay their debts”, and of course they reply yes. Why not try asking “should the Greek taxpayer have to pay the private debts of the private banking sector”?
Greece, like Ireland, has a primary account surplus, which means the state raises enough tax to cover its running cost, but when you then add back the interest and costs of servicing the debts incurred to bail out the private banking sector then that surplus becomes a deficit.
No one in Greece is disputing that the dysfunctional administration of the state over decades allowed endemic cronyism and tax avoidance by the self-employed professional middle class and the wealthy (sound familiar?), needs to tackled by Greece itself, but that problem won’t be fixed overnight. Nor is anyone in Greek denying that the debts incurred for running the state should be wiped out because they should rightly be the responsibility of the Greek taxpayer. What Greece is asking is that the portion of its debt that relates to the private banking sector should be Europeanised because forcing the Greek taxpayer to borrow money it cannot afford to repay, from German (and other) taxpayers, at the expense of ripping the social fabric of Greek society, so that the borrowed money can then be paid back to German (and other) banks is stupid, both morally and economically, not to mention inefficient.
Perhaps if Ireland’s political class had not been so gutless in 2010 and after 2011 and had been more forceful in standing up for the interests of the Irish people, the debt situation could have been faced up to years ago without the need for mass emigration and generational damage to society. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Further to “Hopes for sick children who go abroad may be ‘unrealistic’” (Health, August 20th, 2014), as a parent who has battled neuroblastoma in the US for my daughter over the past 14 years, I found the article’s premise and conclusions misleading. I feel it’s vital that Irish parents afflicted by neuroblastoma know there is another potentially life-saving side of this story not being told here.
I am no champion for the US healthcare system. I take issue with its shortcomings; particularly the role money plays in advancing research and new clinical trials. However, my own journey completely contradicts the advice this article offers.
The quoted statement that “[neuroblastoma] relapse is invariably fatal . . . in the region of 4 per cent, possibly 8 per cent, but that is optimistic” is incorrect. According to the US National Cancer Institute, the overall survival in the entire relapse population for neuroblastoma was 20 per cent, not to mention my own daughter’s experience, married last year at the age of 26.
Regarding the quoted statement “I will not, as an individual, send any of my parents into that zone where it is purely experimental and is not within a clinical trial”, the most effective treatments my daughter received were outside the clinical trial zone, suggested by doctors working directly with her and in collaboration with colleagues.
The statement “I think it [fundraising] is exploiting the community goodwill” is simply wrong. Fundraising has been a very important part of the journey we undertook, only as a last resort.
The statement: “They are separated from their husband or wife, separated from grandparents . . . think of that position” is naive from this parent’s perspective. The worst thing a parent can feel is that they or the doctors they have working on their behalf didn’t do everything possible for them. I have never been naive about expectations but I also know I’ve done everything I could think of for my child including working with multiple doctors and centres simultaneously. It’s not easy, but it’s the right thing to do for someone like me. Suggesting otherwise is offensive.
The statement “it is part of a trend where parents believe they can be more in control of life and therefore they will fight everything” is patronising. The explosion of information combined with ever-advancing sophistication of research in treatment options necessitates more proactive roles by parents. This “trend” is happening for a reason, not because there’s something wrong with parents (or patients). My experience has taught me that aggressive, proactive engagement in cutting-edge clinical trials has the potential to help a child with recurrent neuroblastoma.
I have faced similar attitudes by regional doctors here in the US – “don’t travel across the US”, they’d say, “we have capable doctors right here”. I didn’t accept that advice then and I never will. Thankfully, my daughter is in her second year of marriage to her high school sweetheart after graduating from college. I don’t take anything for granted.
My book Steps to Hope is, in my opinion, the missing side of the story presented in your article.
The article seems to blame “the problem” being cited as due to “social media”. I honestly don’t know how anyone could suggest that we need less communication for a parent whose child has been given a neuroblastoma diagnosis.
I hope you will take this letter in the spirit with which it is intended – to help create a proper dialogue about horrific disease and what can be done to empower individuals to do what they can to pursue the best possible treatment available for their child. – Yours, etc,
San Luis Obispo, California.
Sir, – Ireland’s Call is a terrible, terrible song. It falls well short of the Italian anthem, even though that may sound a touch better on the football field. It’s not a patch on its Welsh rival, nor the Scottish spine-tingler, and, whisper it, God Save the Queen is frankly more majestic. The French rouser is, of course, the greatest of them all.
But come the day and come the hour, find me among the masses on a Six Nations day out and I will roar this song like Pavarotti at his peak.
Critics are missing the point. If songs are your thing, I suggest you plan for the Eurovision. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I welcome the letter from Hugo MacNeill (February 3rd). Ireland’s Call is not, in my view, the answer. It is politically correct, but not inspiring. But why not in a democracy ask the people to vote for a song? We could have a song contest with an assured Irish winner.
I have proposed in turn Danny Boy; Boolavogue (1798 is a better model for us in Ireland than 1916, in my opinion); or There Is An Isle. – Yours, etc,
Dr GERALD MORGAN,
A chara, – We have lost the historic name of Lansdowne Road; in the stands our national flag appears to have morphed into a mobile phone company advertisement; and we seem to be at real risk of losing our national anthem completely. – Is mise,
Sir, – Much space was devoted to the recent “historic” New York blizzard, which never happened. What a pity our American cousins in the media did not repay us in kind. CBS, NBC and ABC websites ignored the amber gale warning for Mayo and the snow in Castleblaney. Minor roads closed in Cavan were nowhere on Fox News or CNN. Strangest of all, America’s newspaper of record, the New York Times, entirely missed reports of a fallen tree near Termonfeckin.
Perhaps we should treat wild predictions of apocalyptic US weather with the dose of salt that melodrama deserves. At least our own storms, while not historic, happened as predicted by Met Éireann.– Yours, etc,
Sir, – Many moons ago I was taught to believe that God created man in God’s image. While no real proof can be offered, I now tend to the belief that man created God in man’s image. This may assist in contextualising Stephen Fry’s contention that God is a “maniac”. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Does anyone seriously think that a 21-year-old citizen, however worthy or wise, could possibly be an appropriate head of state to represent us all? It is a total nonsense. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – One assumes that the Government’s next “deadline” for registration with Irish Water will be April 1st? – Yours, etc,
Several members of the Oireachtas, including Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald, a member of the Public Accounts Committee, have publicly boasted that they will not pay water charges.
The Code of Conduct of Dáil Éireann, adopted in 2002, obliges members to strive to maintain the public trust placed in them and to conduct themselves in a manner that does not bring the integrity of the Dáil into serious disrepute.
The code also demands that members must interact with authorities involved with public administration and the enforcement of the law, in a manner which is consistent with their roles as public representatives and legislators.
How can a declaration not to pay a utility charge determined by legislation be consistent with the spirit and purpose of this code? The concept that public office is a public trust and that public office holders are fiduciaries charged with a duty to society as a whole has an ancient history going back to Plato and the genesis of democracy.
According to Cicero, those who propose to take charge of the affairs of state should not fail to remember two of Plato’s rules.
Firstly, to keep the good of the people so clearly in view that regardless of their own interest they will make every action conform to that. And secondly, to care for the welfare of the whole body politic, not merely serving the interests of one party to betray the rest. If a member brings the Dáil into serious disrepute, undermines the integrity of the institution, or fails to interact appropriately with the authorities involved with public administration, will there be a punishment in the form of censure, reprimand, condemnation, removal from an Oireachtas committee, fine, or some other sanction, or will a blind eye be invoked and public trust in the Oireachtas taken for granted?
Glenageary, Co Dublin
Removing blasphemy law
Gay Byrne’s programme ‘The Meaning of Life’ is an insult to every intelligent person on this island. His refusal to step outside Catholicism or Protestanism and conceive that there are other religions and beliefs out there is astounding and insulting to those of other persuasions in this country.
Secondly, given the reaction caused in religious circles to Stephen Fry’s expression of freedom of speech and their desire to silence it, the need to remove the offence of blasphemy from our Constitution has never been more apparent.
In my view, history has shown that religion has been nothing more than the fulfilment of one man’s desire to dominate another.
The blasphemy law is an extension of this. It is Mr Fry’s belief that God does not exist and he is entitled to it.
Article 40.1 of our Constitution states the all men be treated as equals in the eyes of the law. If one person’s beliefs are elevated above those of others and protected by the law, as is the case under the blasphemy law, then that law itself is repugnant to the Constitution, as it does not treat all men as equals. It is time to remove the blasphemy law from our Constitution.
Faith is a far better bet
Both Gay Byrne and Stephen Fry are to be commended for their excellent discussion on ‘The Meaning of Life’ programme. For me, personally, it all boils down to the simple, basic question – God or No God, take it or leave it. Like every theist, I started life biased toward belief.
I can understand someone else being biased towards unbelief. But the fundamental question for all of us remains, why is there not nothing? My mind, not the philosophers, tells me that every effect demands a cause.
Still, there is no absolute proof, one way or the other.
However, apart altogether from having faith or not, God is obviously the better bet.
Since I believe in God, and that He is ‘All-Good’, I know I am prejudiced. But it’s better to be kind.
Stephen, in my book you get top marks for honesty and courage. You are a good person – but don’t be so damn dogmatic.
Address with Editor
I would love to see some old granny giving a good bashing to that so-called sportsman Conor McGregor.
Conor’s insulting behaviour and belittling of his opponents is something that Irish sportspeople have never indulged in.
Anyone who has to lower themselves to such a degrading level will get his comeuppance sooner rather than later.
I cannot stand people letting off steam in such a derogatory fashion in relation to their opponent’s looks. It is plain bad manners and should not be tolerated.
Gort an Choirce, Donegal
Let’s not forget the West
With Irish aviation facing a possible new configuration, may I express the hope that Ireland West airport continues to be well supported – for the sake of Connachtivity.
Dooradoyle, Co Limerick
Aer Lingus – our last symbol
Ireland was once known worldwide, as “the island of saints and scholars” because of its export of missionaries, educationalists and medical carers throughout the globe. As a nation, now entirely dependent on general export, Aer Lingus with its famous green shamrock emblem on the tailpiece of its planes, is about the only international symbol we have left.
The prestige that it carries, the confidence it inspires and the part it plays in marketing and tourism promotion are incalculable in money terms. We are a small EU economy, surrounded by water and our national carrier and our independence cannot be at the mercy of others.
It behoves this Government to retain control of Aer Lingus through its shareholding and as the protector of this country’s interests.
Where is Ireland’s greatest-ever state enterprise, the Irish Sugar Company, now?
This was a very successful company with factories and outlets spread nationwide, employing thousands. The Government relinquished its shareholding, allowing it to be privatised through a company called Greencore. Gradually it was divested of its industries, eventually it all closed down.
Greencore’s only interests in Ireland now are a reduced office and valuable land banks where once there stood its thriving factories.
The company operations are currently based in the UK and the US, where they are reputed to be the biggest sandwich makers in the world.
Thurles, Co Tipperary
Call for president’s support
In a radio interview many years ago, President Michael D Higgins told us that “the biggest risk in living is to choose to know”. He also said that “if you look deeply into the hurt of another human being you will never be the same again”. These observations were made earnestly and with sincerity.
Surely, at this juncture, the very least that Irish citizens might expect from Mr Higgins is that he understands and appreciates their anger, their frustration and fears, and the alienation that has built up over the last decade – and that he might walk the walk with them in relation to the water charges.