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To find an archived article, simply click on Index and scroll the subject titles, or do a Ctrl-F search

Irish Times

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  1999 2000  2001  2002  2003 
2004 2005 2006 2007  2008 2012


Letters published in the Irish Independent


Letters published in the Sunday Times


Letters published in The Economist


Letters submitted but not published in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012

For letters over the period 2001-05, for which


the URLs may have changed


or access been denied


or indeed the original article may have been deleted,

you can still search for them by using the WayBack Machine by inputting the URL provided with each letter. 

In some cases I have already done that and over a period I hope to do so for all of them.  [Tony, April 2009]

Grate Eating 

20th June 1992

Shaw's Style 

15th April 1999

Mobile Phone Licences

Drug Abuse In Prisons

3rd August 2000  

12th August 2000

Mugabe's Democracy

RTE and the Licence Fee

The Abortion Debate

The Cost of Smoking

A Woman's Place

Debate on Abortion

Sutherland Speech on Nice

6th March 2001  

11th July 2001

27th July 2001

31st July 2001

31st October 2001

10 December 2001

12 December 2001

US Treatment of Prisoners

Israel and The Palestinians

US Tariffs on Steel Imports

The Plight of Peter Mason

General Election 2002

Guests of the Nation

Ireland's Alcohol Problem

Hospital Waiting Lists

Corrib Gas Field Exploitation

Debate on the Nice Treaty

Churches and Homosexuality

Demise of Harland & Wolff

Supporting the US on Iraq

19 January 2002

28th January 2002

3rd March 2002

29th March 2002

3rd May 2002

21st May 2002

1st June 2002

19th July 2002

5th August 2002

26th September 2002

14th October 2002

28th October 2002

9th November 2002

NI Census and Irish Unity

US War Threat Against Iraq

Safety on Building Sites

US War Plans Against Iraq

O'Leary's bus lane loophole

US War Plans Against Iraq (again)

Debate over US-Led Invasion of Iraq

Freedom of Information Act

Promoting European Culture

Papal Encyclical on Eucharist

Expensive Ireland

Aftermath of Iraq Invasion

Geldof, African Aid, and the US

Runaway Costs of Luas

US Call for UN Support

Iraq Under Occupation

Pros and Cons of Price Cutting

3rd January 2003

21st January 2003

8th February 2003

28th February 2003

5th March 2003

11th March 2003

21st March 2003

28th March 2003

11th April 2003

24th April 2003

6th June 2003

14th June 2003

14th July 2003

1st September 2003

9th September 2003

3rd October 2003

21st October 2003

US Links with Saddam Hussein

Inspections in Iran

Sinn Féin and Garda McCabe

Bush and Gay Marriage

Mel Gibson's Passion Film

Madrid Massacre & the Spanish Election

Referendum on Citizenship Rights

Referendum on Citizenship

Israel's Record on Torture

Israel & the Palestinians

Arresting Karadzic and Mladic

Palestinian Leadership Crisis

Doctors and Patients

The Absolute Affirmative

Aer Lingus Strategy

Aftermath of the Beslan School Siege

Israeli Attacks in Gaza

Democracy in the Middle East

Controversy over Borroso's Commission

Re-Election of George Bush

The Politics of Grand Projects

Disaster in South-East Asia

Top of Index

7th January 2004

15th January 2004

19th February 2004

27th February 2004

8th March 2004

17th March 2004

26th March 2004

14th April 2004

6th May 2004

25th May 2004

6th July 2004

21st July 2004

28th July 2004

4th August 2004

3rd September 2004

9th September 2004

6th October 2004

13th October 2004

29th October 2004

8th November 2004

8th December 2004

31st December 2004

Ireland's Alcohol Problem

Pre-Election Violence in Iraq

Rights of the Palestinians

Barriers to Insurance Market

Mourning the Death of Pope John Paul II

Plight of Tristan Dowse

Reflections on Abortion

'Live 8', Debt Relief and Africa

A Name that's Hard to Swallow

Irish Farmers and the CAP Reform

O'Driscoll Injury and the Haka

Mayo Gas Pipeline Controversy

Education: Are Points the Point?

Dismissal of Brian Kerr

Dispute at Irish Ferries

Top of Index

5th January 2005

25th January 2005

27th January 2005

11th March 2005

8th April 2005

30th April 2005

19th May 2005

7th June 2005

14th June 2005

23rd June 2005

1st July 2005

15th July 2005

24th September 2005

20th October 2005

30th November 2005


Debate on Same-Sex Unions

Respecting Castro's Cuba

Spread of Nuclear Arms

Cartoons of Muhammad

Random Breath-Testing and Civil Liberties

Controversy Over Cartoons

Controversy Over Cartoons (again!)

Blinkered View of the PDs

Drumm's Comments on MRSA

Farmers and Subsidies

Easter Mass in Drogheda

PD Tax-Cutting Promises

Apology over Easter Mass

Crisis in the Middle East

Crisis in the Middle East(2)

The Record of Castro's Cuba

'Poaching' of Academic Staff

Power and Equality

Protests of Mayo Pipeline

Call for Boycott of Israel

Pinochet and Castro

Top of Index

2nd January 2006

9th January 2006

2nd February 2006

10th February 2006

16th February 2006

27th February 2006

28th February 2006

10th March 2006

4th April 2006

8th April 2006

21st April 2006

28th April 2006

2nd June 2006

18th July 2006

 2nd August 2006

17th August 2006

1st September 2006

11th September 2006

14th October 2006

20th October 2006

21st December 2006

Execution of Saddam Hussein

Krauthammer's View of Iraq

Likelihood of Attack on Iran

Giving Girls a Fair Chance

Paisley Remark on Gays

Debt, Aid and Development

Twelfth of July Bonfires

Roma on the M50 Roundabout

Shannon's Role in Iraq War

Role of Shannon in Iraq War

Controversy over Shannon

US Optimism on Iraq Conflict

Change in Drink Driving Limits

Pay Rises for Top Politicians

Israel and the Palestinians

Top of Index

5th January 2007

8th February 2007

26th February 2007

5th March 2007

2nd June 2007

11th June 2007

14th July 2007

25th July 2007

1st August 2007

4th August 2007

8th October 2007

18th October 2007

3rd November 2007

11th November 2007

21st November 2007


As of January 2008, my access to the Letters page was curtailed
by my privileged position as a sometime columnist

Pay Rises for CEOs

Clinton threat to Obliterate Iran

Top of Index

11th January 2008

28th April 2008


Mapping Dublin's future



8th August 2010
Constitutional convention

Top of Index

13th July 2012


Irish Times, 20th June 1992GRATE EATING - 20th June 1992

Sir, - In Darina Allen's article on outdoor cooking (June 6th), the word barbecue, including its derivatives, was spelt wrongly (barbaque, barbequed, barbequeing, barbaques) no fewer than 16 times.  Is this an Irish Times record?  

But let's be fair; it was spelt correctly five times.  - Yours, etc.

WALTER C. ALLWRIGHT, 93 Ardoyne House, Pembroke Park, Dublin 4

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Irish Times, 15th April 1999SHAW'S STYLE - 15th April 1999

Sir, - I have been unable to trace the original of Martin Barry's (An Irishman's Diary, April 8th) quotation of a Shavian observation: "The difference between you and I, Mr Goldwyn .. .", but I very much doubt that GBS would have committed such a solecism. - Yours, etc.,

WALTER C. ALLWRIGHT, Los Boliches, Malaga, Spain.
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Sir, - "Telecoms operators will compete for third generation mobile phone licences through a "beauty contest" rather than a UK-style auction, which may have resulted in high prices for consumers, telecoms regulator Ms Etain Doyle has decided" (The Irish Times, July 27th).

This is a scandal. When "beauty" not money will determine who wins, the scope for corruption is obvious. (How will the politicians quantify "beauty"?), and this at a time when the Flood and Moriarty tribunals continue to expose the rampant corruption of Irish politicians.

Moreover, the airwaves being sold belong to the Irish people not to Ms Doyle and not (yet) to the telecoms company. As such, she has no right to extract other than the maximum price that the market can bear. Failure to do so means tax revenue foregone and therefore an unnecessary extra tax burden on long-suffering taxpayers. Bidders will not bid more than they believe their future customers will be willing to pay for the service - but that is bidders' risk not Ms Doyle's or the Irish taxpayers'.

The "beauty" approach is the lazy approach of someone who can't be bothered to spell out exactly what is being sold, to quantify in hard money terms the manner in which bids are to be evaluated and to seek to maximise revenue. No successful, honest, commercial business would evaluate a tender in such a way.

Who regulates the telecoms regulator? - Yours, etc.,

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DRUG ABUSE IN PRISONS - 12th August 2000

Sir - It is unfortunate that your Health and Children Correspondent, Padraig O'Morain, relied almost exclusively on the press release of the Irish Prisons Service when reporting on our survey of hepatitis B and C and HIV in Irish prisoners (The Irish Times, July 27th). Prison management is sceptical of our finding that approximately one fifth of prisoners who inject began doing so in prison. The reason for this scepticism is the known propensity of prisoners to blame their health troubles on the authorities rather than themselves.

Having carried out two surveys in Irish prisons, the results of one of which has just been published in the British Medical Journal, we believe that those with authority to introduce change in the Irish Prisons Services should look at their own practices rather than seek to spin their way out of accepting responsibility for what has been acknowledged for some time as a seriously deficient system. - Yours, etc.,

JEAN LONG, M.Sc., SHANE ALLWRIGHT, Ph.D., JOSEPH BARRY, MD, Department of Community Health and General Practice, Trinity College, Dublin 2.
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MUGABE'S DEMOCRACY - 6th March 2001

Sir, - In your otherwise sensible Editorial, "Mugabe's Democracy (March 5th), you state that "many of the [the whites] have been guilty of treating their workers badly and, in some instances, with a cruelty that stopped marginally short of slavery."

I challenge you to provide evidence to support this outrageous assertion. - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney Heath, Co Dublin.
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RTE AND THE LICENCE FEE - 11th July 2001

Sir, - I refer to your Editorial of July 5th and Ms de Valera's response of July 10th. The RTÉ Licence Fee is £70. RTÉ has asked for an increase of 71 per cent (£50). The Minister offered 21 per cent. (£14.50). Since when was a 21 per cent increase in revenue "parsimonious"? - Yours etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney Heath, Co Dublin.
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THE ABORTION DEBATE - 27th July 2001

Sir, - The essence of Breda O'Brien's article, Time to tackle reasons for choosing abortion (Opinion, July 21st), is summarised in the admirable statement, "But it will remain simply aspirational and a mockery of the distress felt by those in crisis until practical supports are given to reduce the numbers of unwanted pregnancies."

However, the article omits the other key alternative to abortion. In addition to reducing the numbers of unwanted pregnancies, it is equally important to provide material and emotional support for such mothers to proceed with the birth and offer their babies for adoption. There is no shortage of Irish would-be adoptive parents - just look at the numbers who travel to Romania, India, China looking for children. - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.
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THE COST OF SMOKING - 31st July 2001

Sir, - David Andrews's article, "Deaths fail to register as deadly addiction continues" (The Irish Times, July 28th) beggars belief! Let me give a few examples of his non-sequiturs, obfuscation and errors.

He says, "One can only have sympathy for those who cannot 'kick' the habit." Excuse me, but we are talking about grown-ups here who know what they are doing and are aware of the consequences, yet continue to do it. They are not victims, but willing self-abusers.

He quotes the cost to the State of smoking as £1.6 billion a year. But if he wants to talk money, cost is meaningless without also quoting the gain to the State in terms of cigarette taxes and pensioners' early deaths. Not only does he ignore the gain, but he excoriates the tobacco company Philip Morris for daring to do quantify it. Evidently he prefers this information to remain hidden because it more than nullifies his cost argument.

Mr Andrews seems to have a penchant for hiding inconvenient information. He wants to rig the Consumer Price Index by removing cigarettes, so as to impose more punishing taxes while hiding the fact that these will be inflationary. Oh, and meanwhile he wants to transfer even more money from smokers to the State! He says: "Where a company has knowingly sold a product that kills, it should be made responsible for this terrible action." He also cites road deaths, but then fails to make the connection: make car manufacturers responsible when cars crash and kill people. Same for manufacturers of kitchen knives, ladders, swimming pools, bricks, hammers and countless others products that are known to kill.

He says: "Passive smoking is...more harmful than asbestos." Balderdash. A single inhalation of asbestos fibre can damage lungs sufficiently to kill in later life. Nobody pretends passive smoking is as deadly as that.

Was a man of this stunning intellect ever really a Minister? - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.
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A WOMAN'S PLACE - 31st October 2001

Sir, - Medb Ruane (October 19th), and Nora Stewart (October 26th), lament the low representation of women at senior levels in our public, private and civic institutions, and seem to attribute it to some sort of male prejudice. But surely the possibility should at least be tabled that too few capable women are in fact interested in senior jobs and/or that there is a shortage of capable women.

Male prejudice is, however, a much easier target for blame.

Perhaps female prejudice explains why so few men breast-feed their infants. - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney Heath, Killiney, Co Dublin.
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DEBATE ON ABORTION - 10 December 2001

Sir, - Few would argue with Róisín Ryan-Flood's claim that women have a right to control their own bodies. However, the debate is about the right to control someone else's body, namely the child's. - Yours etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin
DEBATE ON ABORTION - 28 December 2001

Sir, - Tony Allwright (December 10th) suggests that while few people would disagree with a woman's right to control her body, abortion is about the right to control someone's else's body, namely the child's. This line of argument, while ostensibly recognising women's right to reproductive control, in fact undermines that very right. First of all, to give equal weight to the life of a woman and an unborn foetus is completely to devalue women's lives, health and subjectivity. In equating women with foetuses, women are denied personhood and agency. A woman's feelings, personal freedom and bodily integrity are sacrificed at the expense of a foetus. The foetus is perceived as being a person, and indeed the only "person" in the equation who counts. Secondly, abortion is always one barometer of the degree of control which women have over their bodies. To present it as being a separate issue is absurd and yet again implies the view that women are merely carriers of foetuses, rather than full adults in their own right. Finally, the abortion debate reflects a wider cultural ideology of womanhood and motherhood in Irish society which is detrimental to women. It remains unacceptable in Irish society for a woman to choose not to sacrifice any aspect of her well-being for others. Instead, she is to choose to yield all reproductive control and even continue with an unwanted pregnancy, or risk social censure. It is clear, given the thousands of Irish women who travel to England every year, that if the option of abortion was not available abroad, we would be faced with large numbers of desperate Irish women experiencing severe injury and death though unsafe, illegal abortions. It is time for the Irish State to recognise that Irish women are choosing to have abortions and that it is the responsibility of this State to provide them on Irish soil under safe, supportive conditions. - Yours, etc.,

RÓISÍN RYAN-FLOOD, The Gender Institute, London School of Economics, London WC2.
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Sir, - What an astonishing rant from Peter Sutherland to the Institute of European Affairs, berating Ireland for daring to vote No to Nice and asking how Ireland could honourably remain a full member of the EU if the decision was not reversed (The Irish Times, December 11th).

He also asked: "How could 1 per cent of the EU population stop 99 per cent?"

Rather than arrogantly presuming that the Irish population was wrong to have voted No, or that our veto should be vetoed, perhaps Mr Sutherland should ask why the other 14 governments are too scared to ask their populations to vote on Nice.

The answer is clear: majorities of most countries would also vote No, and because they are being given no such opportunity they are relying on Ireland's 1 per cent to save them from their pro-Nice politicians. - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.
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Sir, - Stuart McIntyre of Cork Peace Alliance (January 18th) asks whether shaving, shackling, sedating, hooding and caging of Al-Qaeda/Taliban prisoners is moral, just, or noble, and urges they be treated with basic human decency.

Taking account of the behaviour and threats of the prisoners, their treatment is justified:

Shaved: For cleanliness and ease of identification.

Shackled and hooded during the flight to Cuba: for the security of the flight (and bear in mind, the US always shackles its prisoners - even that English au-pair).

Sedated: We were told that only one prisoner, despite being shackled and hooded, was so disruptive as to necessitate this for his flight.

Caged: just a normal prison cell, but with see-through walls so the prisoners' potentially wild behaviour can be observed/controlled.

These men are being adequately fed and watered, have individual toilets, their religious observances are being facilitated, and there is provision for exercise. By any measure, they are being treated with basic human decency. So what on earth are the objectors on about?

As for their status, they are certainly not POWs in the understood sense. They were neither part of a uniformed national army, nor regular civilian criminals. They constitute an entirely new category of prisoner for whom new conventions need to be developed. - Yours, etc.,

Killiney Heath,
Co Dublin.



Sir, - Tony Allwright (January 19th) attempts to justify the unjustifiable in his defence of the United States' shaving, shackling, sedating, hooding and caging of Al-Qaeda and Taliban prisoners.

He suggests that shaving is for "cleanliness and ease of identification". Identification by whom? Presumably the prisoners know who they are, and have been identifiable up to now by their friends and colleagues. The implication is that, to Americans, all these foreign fellows with lots of hair and beards look the same.

Tony Allwright is fooling himself if he thinks that the motive for shaving is as innocent as that. Shaving is one way of depersonalising a captive, or any new recruit to what Erving Goffman famously called a "total institution", such as a prison or an army.

Allwright claims that "the US always shackles its prisoners", but the routine nature of a practice is no justification. The "cages" are hardly "normal prison cells"; no prison cell is normally bounded by razor wire.

Is it clear that, in order to be treated as a POW, a combatant must be a member of a uniformed national army? Mr Allwright may be correct that the al-Qaeda and Taliban prisoners "constitute an entirely new category of prisoner for whom new conventions need to be developed", but he is not correct to concede that those categories are to be developed unilaterally by any one power. - Yours, etc.,

CONOR McCARTHY, De Vesci Court, Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin.



Sir, - Tony Allwright (January 19th) wants to search for a new convention to handle the US prisoners in Cuba. He need look no further than the American Bill of Rights. - Yours, etc.,

UNA O'BRIEN, Law Library, Dublin 7

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Sir, - Your Editorial of January 24th seems to censure George Bush for supporting Ariel Sharon's "dismissive attitude towards Yasser Arafat" .

I am one of (I suspect) many Europeans who believe a dismissive attitude towards Mr Arafat is entirely appropriate. He has been a great revolutionary leader of the Palestinians, but he demonstrated at Camp David in 2000 his inability to grasp an excellent compromise deal when Israel offered it. The intifada is the direct result of his failure. Meanwhile, he is unwilling and/or unable to control the disparate paramilitary groups of disaffected Palestinians who are driving the intifada.

It is time for him to go and to be replaced by someone who can speak for Palestinians with authority (dare one suggest some kind of election?). No doubt this will be a hard-liner whom Mr Sharon will detest, but who by virtue of his mandate will force Israel to negotiate seriously. - Yours, etc.,

Co Dublin.

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Sir, - It would be a grave mistake for the EU and other steel-producing countries to impose their own sanctions on US trade in retaliation for President Bush's bizarre 30 per tariff on steel imports (Editorial, March 7th).

Far better to mobilise the full apparatus of the World Trade Organisation to resolve the dispute - and launch a propaganda campaign on American public opinion.

This would make plain that while there are 160,000 steel workers, the object of the President's largesse, fully 12 million people work in steel-consuming industries (machine tools, cars, oil, white goods etc.) that will be forced to pay 30 per cent more for steel than their foreign competitors.

A recent study shows that a tariff of 20 per cent would result in 9,000 steel jobs saved but 74,000 people thrown out of work elsewhere - a ratio of one to eight. Furthermore, the tariff will mean higher prices for every consumer product, local or imported, that contains any steel. In the meantime, the steel industry - in the absence of the competition it fears - will have no incentive to become less flaccid.

The American people may not care about the squeals of European outrage, but once they realise the scam that is being played on them by their own government, they will not stand for it. - Yours, etc.,

Co Dublin.

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Sir, - Kevin Myers's piece (An Irishman's Diary, March 26th) about the 49-year-old family man Peter Mason, now blind, deaf and armless as a result of a RIRA bomb at Magilligan Strand, Co Derry, on February 8th, was one of the most moving essays I have ever read. - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

The last sentence was deleted by the editor :
Is there a fund to help this hapless individual doomed to a life of hell ?

Letter refers to : http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/opinion/2002/0326/4217196854DIMAR26.html

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- 3rd May 2002

Sir, - Cllr Larry O'Toole of Sinn Féin proposes (Letters, May 2nd), in effect, the quasi-nationalisation of motor insurance as an avenue to lowering insurance premia. Apart from the fact that the Soviet Union has already demonstrated how effective nationalisation can really be, there is a much simpler solution.

In 1999, when living abroad, my car was comprehensively insured in Holland for an annual premium of 2,688 guilders (€1,220) valid all over Europe including Ireland. But when I moved back to Ireland that year, my Dutch insurance company informed me that EU regulations forbade them to insure a resident of Ireland, and, as a result, I had to change to an Irish company, for which the best offer was IR£ 1,260 (€1,600).

It is Irish protectionism alone that allows Irish insurance companies to gouge their customers. If the EU's single market were allowed to operate in the insurance market, premia would drop overnight, and not just for cars. - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

Letter refers to :

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GUESTS OF THE NATION - 21st May 2002

Sir, - Surely no more than a handful of Irish voters can possibly support the Government's plan to provide exile to two of the 13 Palestinian militants from the siege of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

What on earth can be the benefit to Ireland of accommodating what Israel describes as dangerous terrorists, as if we didn't have enough home-grown ones? - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

Letter refers to :

Deleted from the end by the Editor :
"And why are no countries volunteering from Asia, the Americas, Africa, the Muslim world ?

It is significant that none of our politicians on the hustings were brave
enough to comment.  They know they would have been excoriated.

Reply 22nd May 2002


Sir, - Tony Allwright (May 21st) is mean-minded and credulous in his response to the Government's decision to accept two of the Palestinians exiled in the wake of the Church of the Nativity siege. Israel may say that these men are "terrorists", but the fact is that they have not been charged with anything, and they have nothing to do with what Mr Allwright so glibly calls "home-grown \". Ireland is not illegally occupying the West Bank, so we have nothing to fear from these men.

The fact is that the plan to accept exile for these men has been a highly controversial one for the Palestinian Authority, since for obvious reasons it has no wish to seem to endorse Israeli ethnic cleansing, of however few people, and since it is illegal under the Geneva Conventions for any country to deport people from a territory conquered in war.

The exile plan has been hammered out carefully between the authority, the Israeli government and the European Union as a means to defuse what was otherwise likely to be an indefinite stand-off. Ireland's participation in the plan is part of our ongoing involvement with European Union foreign policy on the Middle East crisis, and as such is to be welcomed. - Yours, etc.,

CONOR McCARTHY, Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Dame Street, Dublin 2.

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Sir, - So the Strategic Task Force on Alcohol trots out in its report the old chestnut that the allowable blood alcohol levels for motorists should be cut (The Irish Times, May 29th). Though Environment Minister Dempsey mooted something similar last March, as have various British Ministers, such a cut is utterly without foundation.

The Irish and British limit is 0.08 mg/ml; most European limits are 0.05 mg/ml. There is a wealth of irrefutable evidence that blood-alcohol contributes directly to motor accidents, but no research has ever been published that shows that the lower European limit lowers the accident rate.

What undoubtedly does lower the accident rate is enforcement (think Scandinavia), of which here in Ireland there is almost none. The Strategic Task Force on Alcohol should therefore argue for enforcement of the existing blood-alcohol limit rather than the meaningless gesture of lowering the existing, unenforced, limit.

But, of course, enforcement would be very unpopular with many drinking voters. - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

Refers to :

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Sir, - Dr Orla Hardiman, consultant neurologist at Beaumont Hospital, tells us (July 16th) that "clinic staff are increasingly subjected to appalling verbal abuse by patients waiting for long periods to be seen in particularly busy and overbooked clinics".

Such behaviour is unacceptable and I would advocate that hospitals adopt a policy of putting every abuser immediately to the back of the queue. - Yours etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

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Sir, - David Smith (July 31st) finds incomprehensible the "scandal" of the Irish Government settling for a 12.5 per cent take from the Corrib gas fields, when the Norwegian oil tax is a "thumping 78 per cent".

Incomprehensibility disappears when you look at the facts of hydrocarbon business life. Despite the hundreds of millions spent exploring here over several decades, Ireland is a dreadful oil and gas province. It has no oil and only two small gas fields. Kinsale, containing 1.7 TCF (trillion cubic feet, 1 TCF being equivalent in energy terms to about 0.17 billion barrels) started producing gas back in 1978. And now Corrib, with 0.85 TCF, is planned to come on stream in 2004.

Compare this with the Norwegians. They began their highly successful exploration in the 1960s and to date their proven reserves are 36 TCF of gas plus 5.7 billion barrels of oil, with the same amount again not yet proven. So perhaps Norway's gargantuan hydrocarbon riches explains why its government can drive such a hard bargain with oil companies, compared with the driblet - 1/27th of Norway's production - that Ireland has to offer. So without a competitive tax regime considerably more favourable than Norway's or the UK's, Ireland would have no chance at all of attracting the €840 million needed to develop Corrib. - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

See also Tallrite Blog #4 of 4th August 2002

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DEBATE ON THE NICE TREATY - 26th September 2002

Sir, - Lucinda Creighton (September 25th) reiterates an oft-quoted non-sequitur: "if we vote No to Nice. . .Ireland would no longer be at the heart of EU decision making and would be marginalised in Europe. Our bargaining power would be dramatically reduced. . .Foreign investment in Ireland would fall as we were seen to have lost our traditional influence in Europe."

On the contrary, a Yes vote would be taken for granted by EU politicians. We will be just the 15th ratifier, nothing special, and we'd soon be forgotten. A No vote, on the other hand, would cause ructions among the EU politicians.

The whole Nice treaty would have to be renegotiated and you can be sure Ireland would be listened to very carefully - if resentfully - in those discussions.

In other words, Ireland's influence, with its pesky devotion to democratic behaviour, would be enormously increased, both in the Nice renegotiations and thereafter - at least until we are persuaded to change the Constitution to eliminate referendums. - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

Letter from Lucinda Creighton to which this letter refers :

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Madam, - I was shocked by the comments made by Mgr Andrew Baker of the Vatican's Congregation of Bishops, no less (The Irish Times, September 28th).

Here are some of his choice phrases : "homosexual tendencies are aberrations that can and should be addressed by both the individual and by competent experts with the aid of behavioural sciences as well as by spiritual means, including prayer, the sacraments and spiritual direction. . .

"Homosexuals may be more familiar with certain patterns and techniques of deception and repression. . .Nor can a homosexual be genuinely a sign of Christ's spousal love for the church. . .if the homosexual could be healed from such a disorder, then he could be considered for admission to the seminary and possibly to Holy Orders, but not while being afflicted with the disorder".

In effect, the Vatican seems to be saying that homosexuality is a curable disease. Like leprosy, perhaps.

I can imagine little that is more un-Christlike and therefore un-Catholic than sentiments such as these in respect of people unlucky enough to be born gay. Suppose the word "black" or "disabled" were substituted for "homosexual"? I would invite a senior Catholic cleric, perhaps Cardinal Connell, to comment on Mgr Baker's remarks. - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

Article to which this letter refers :

See also Tallrite Blog Issue #11, dated 6th October 2002, "Catholic Church : A Source of Evil ?"

Reply on 16th October 2002


Madam, - At the heart of this gay Irishman's trauma in embracing his orientation was eradicating the murky world of self-doubt and loathing which, promoted by Irish society, often comes with the territory.

Tony Allwright's letter of October 14th is an interesting prism through which to observe Ireland's slow progress in refraining from gobbling up her own farrow.

Mr Allwright appears, to be sure, a most reasonable and noble contributor. He emphatically berates the Catholic clergy for their "un-Christlike and therefore un-Catholic" sentiments with regard to homosexuals. But then, the sting in the tail: these sentiments, he continues, are directed by the Vatican towards those who are "unlucky enough to be born gay". With a subtle flourish, the putative defence of homosexuals turns to jelly.

Because the point is this: Irish gay people are not unlucky to be born gay. Rather, their lack of luck resides in the attitudes of the society into which they are born. It is the collective responsibility of adults of every orientation to assure that our gay children come to awareness and maturity in a profoundly new Irish society, where luck plays no role. - Yours, etc.,

BRIAN McINTYRE, Balglass Road, Howth, Co Dublin.

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DEMISE OF HARLAND & WOLFF - 28th October 2002

Madam, "It is surely time for the Government of this island nation (that once built ships for half the world and bred seamen in all its many ports) to take steps to restore Ireland's maritime economy and stop leaving the seas to other continents", writes John de Courcy Ireland.

Instead of castigating the Government he should save his tirade for the executive managements of Harland & Wolff and the Irish Shipping Company. It is those individuals who, by failing to preserve profitability, ensured the downfall of the two companies and thereby failed their workforces.

These senior managers were delighted to take the fat pay and perks reserved for executives; taking the blame is the other side of that coin. Don't let them off the hook by blaming governments. - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

Item to which this letter refers :

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SUPPORTING THE US ON IRAQ - 9th November 2002

Madam, - Anti-warriors such as Vincent Browne (Opinion, November 6th), Paolo Cerioni (Letters, November 8th), Bill McSweeney (Opinion, November 8th) and countless others share three characteristics.

The first is a singular lack of appreciation of how the world has changed since the Twin Towers attacks last year. That dreadful event, followed by the recent attacks on the French oil tanker, in Bali, in Moscow - and preceded by the bombings in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Kenya, Tanzania and, yes, the Twin Towers in 1993 - show the unrelenting face of organised, Islamic-centred terrorism that is already engaged in a merciless and savage war against the free, democratic world.

Second, the anti-warriors never ever come up with a coherent alternative strategy for dealing with the terrorism, other than to do nothing or to negotiate - but with no fallback proposals should negotiation fail. They also bandy around speculative figures such as "tens of thousands of civilians will be killed" without a shred of evidence, not least from the recent wars in Afghanistan and Kosovo.

Third, they bring up the West's lamentable acceptance of Saddam's behaviour in the 1980s - if not complicity with it - as well as the presence of oil in Iraq, as two classic, but utterly illogical reasons for doing nothing about him today.

Saddam's track record - (a) invading neighbours; (b) gassing his own people; (c) repressing their freedoms; (d) flouting 16 UN binding resolutions; (e) building up weapons of mass destruction - demonstrates his malevolence beyond all reasonable doubt. He cannot be allowed to continue, because it is inevitable he will sooner or later use, or allow to be used, his weapons of mass destruction weapons for terrorist ends.

Sentence omitted by Editor
bullet9/11 showed the necessity for pre-emption;
bulletPresident Clinton showed the folly of doing nothing substantive.

Ireland should be proud of its role in disarming Iraq by backing the upcoming UN Security Council resolution, not to mention providing tangible support in Shannon. This behaviour will help make the world a safer place for all. - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

Three items to which this letter refers :
  1. http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/opinion/2002/1106/3456309131OP06VINCENT.htm
    "We should have no part in Iraq war", Vincent Browne, Nov 6th
  2. http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/letters/2002/1108/index.html#1033174075976
    "Supporting the US on Iraq"
    , Paolo Cerioni, Nov 8th
  3. http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/opinion/2002/1108/19680515OP08IRAQ.html
    "War of wealth, power and mastery on its way", Bill McSweeney, Nov 8th

See also Tallrite Blog Issue #16, dated 10th November 2002, "Iraq Anti-Warriors' Sterile Arguments"

Reply on 14th November 2002


Madam, - Please allow me to to repudiate Tony Allwright's assertion (November 9th) that "anti-warriors never ever come up with a coherent alternative strategy for dealing with terrorism".

The supreme anti-warrior in our tradition taught the logic of loving one's enemies (preferring to die oneself than to sacrifice others), backed up by sharing any temporary surplus with those in need. I find this social strategy coherent, and believe it will work when generally adopted. It is, of course, the diametric opposite of the prevailing policies of the Roman, British and American empires.

In particular, if the all-powerful and extravagantly wealthy "Christian" West copped on at this late stage - when our global media make it possible as never before to change habits everywhere at once - and perhaps offered Saddam Hussein and his coterie honourable retirement in one of his palaces (his excesses are no grosser than many in our own history), we might just have peace in our time and a sustainable future for our clever (but demented) species. - Yours, etc.,

HUGH SACKER, Knockandarragh, Donard, Co Wicklow.

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NI CENSUS AND IRISH UNITY - 3rd January 2003

Madam, - Mark Durkan's and Garret FitzGerald's articles of December 20th and 21st respectively make interesting contrasts.

The day does indeed seem a long way off when a majority of the people of Northern Ireland might vote to leave the United Kingdom with a view to joining the Republic. Nevertheless, there is an inbuilt assumption that, having so voted, entry into the Republic will be automatic.

This must be far from the truth. For it is scarcely believable that a majority in the South would really themselves vote to subsume the diseased, penurious carbuncle that is Northern Ireland, subsidised by English taxpayers to the tune of £3.5 billion a year, which would, moreover, be teeming with resentful and violent unionists.

The only vote you can be sure of is that, if ever given the chance, the English taxpayers would vote overwhelmingly to rid themselves of Northern Ireland.

The only show in town is the Belfast Agreement, which all parties should view as the permanent, not transitional, way for the two communities to live and work together in mutual respect. - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

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US WAR THREAT AGAINST IRAQ - 21st January 2003

Madam, - It is most odd that Billy Fitzpatrick, chairperson of the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (January 20th), should decry the upcoming war whose declared purpose is to prevent Saddam Hussein from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Is Mr Fitzpatrick afraid CND may have to disband if there is too much nuclear disarmament?

Meanwhile, Mary van Lieshout of "US Citizens in Ireland for Alternatives to War" also decries the war but provides no "alternatives to war". What is it with these organisations? - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

URL of the two letters to which this letter refers :

Reply on 27th January 2003


Madam, - Tony Allwright (January 21st) claims war against Iraq is being justifiably pursued to prevent Saddam Hussein from developing nuclear weapons. He goes on to make the preposterous suggestion that the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament opposes this war on the grounds that "CND may have to disband if there is too much nuclear disarmament".

Is he aware that the US has a big enough nuclear arsenal to destroy the planet hundreds of times over, yet still continues to develop even more weapons of mass destruction? That the US, under President George W. Bush, has made it clear it is withdrawing from key international arms control and disarmament treaties, including the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM), described by many arms control experts as the cornerstone of global security as well as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT)?

President Bush's new nuclear strategy - and particularly his endorsement of the "Star Wars" programme - envisages an indefinite and ever-expanding role for nuclear weapons of war, even though this is contrary to the spirit and letter of all the major existing treaties.

And what of Mr Allwright's other champion of nuclear disarmament? In defiance of the World Court finding of July 1996 that the use or the threat to use nuclear weapons was contrary to international law in almost all circumstances, Britain has recently developed its Trident submarine fleet, every vessel of which now carries 48 independently targeted nuclear warheads.

Each of these warheads has seven times the explosive power of the first atomic bomb that killed 140,000 civilians in the city of Hiroshima. Alas, with friends like these there is no danger of any of the world's anti-nuclear movements going out of business. - Yours, etc.,

BILLY FITZPATRICK, Chairperson, Irish CND, Dublin 6.

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SAFETY ON BUILDING SITES - 8th February 2003

Madam, - Workers in the building industry are right to be distressed at the totally unacceptable loss of 22 people in work accidents in 2002, but the call for tougher legislation, while well-meaning, is misplaced.

Accidents happen due to one or more of just three things: inadequate procedures; inadequate knowledge of procedures; inadequate motivation to apply known procedures.

Only management, starting with the CEO, can resolve all three things. And unless the CEO is personally motivated to protect his workforce, and demonstrates this by his own daily behaviour, his organisation will continue to hurt and kill people.

His daily behaviour might include: (a) reviewing every safety incident; (b) making regular safety inspections; (c) joining or leading safety audit or investigation teams; (d) giving safety talks to the workforce; (e) making safety the first item on the agenda of every meeting; (f) unequivocally backing up anyone with safety concerns; (g) ensuring adequate training is provided as required; (h) treating sub-contractors with the same respect as his own employees.

The CEO also has to motivate his own managers to ensure that adequate procedures exist, that the workforce is trained, that people willingly comply with the procedures and that their own daily behaviour demonstrates their personal commitment. This is a continual and strenuous process. It doesn't cost much money but it takes an awful lot of effort. The reward is always a dramatic reduction in accident rates.

No amount of legislation or threats will result in anything close to what will be achieved if the CEO is, on a personal level, utterly and demonstrably committed to keeping his workforce alive and healthy.

CEOs alone can reduce the building industry's appalling death toll. - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Industrial Safety Management Consultant, Killiney, Co Dublin.

Items to which this letter refers : 

"Thousands on march in building site safety protest"

Editorial : "Safety On Site"

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US WAR PLANS AGAINST IRAQ - 28th February 2002

Madam, - You have to fear for the Irish Society for International Law. Its PRO, Colm Fahy, propounds (February 25th) that "the preponderance of legal authority is that Resolution 1441 does not permit military action".

Has he even read the unanimously-adopted Resolution 1441? It stipulates that "Iraq has been and remains in material breach of its obligations". This clearly puts the onus on Iraq to prove it is no longer in material breach.

It demands that Iraq co-operate immediately, unconditionally and actively with UNMOVIC and the IAEA. If it was doing this, Drs Blix and ElBaradei would be only too delighted to say so. They haven't.

It also reminds us that "the Council has repeatedly warned Iraq that it will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations".

"Continued violations" equals "continued material breach". Other than the Iraqi ambassador, nobody at the UN debate on February 14th denied that "serious consequences" equals "military action".

So how on earth can Mr Fahy pretend that there is no legal basis for military action, unless the UN Security Council, not the law, is an ass? - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

Item to which this letter refers : 

"US War Plans Against Iraq"  

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O'Leary's bus lane loophole - 5th March 2003

Madam, - Ryanair's Michael O'Leary is to be congratulated for his customary enterprise in buying a €6,000 taxi-plate so his chauffeur-driven Mercedes can whisk him home via the bus lanes (The Irish Times, March 4th).

He has brought to light the senseless provision that allows taxis to use bus lanes, even when carrying only one passenger - or none. In such circumstances, the taxi contributes nothing to the reduction of road use.

Far better would be a rule that any vehicle with four or more occupants can use the bus lanes. Easy for the Garda to enforce, this would reward people who pool their cars and consign under-used vehicles to the gridlock to which they are contributing. - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

Article to which this letter refers :
"Call for review of taxi plate issues as O'Leary uses his to beat traffic" by Olivia Kelly

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Madam, - Many of our commentators are making a similar assumption about the imminent war against Saddam Hussein in the event it does not get the support of the UN Security Council in an 18th resolution. Most recently John Bruton (Opinion, March 11th) has talked of "Tony Blair and George Bush. . . preparing to tear up the United Nations Charter".

The assumption is that America and Britain will have brought down the edifice of the Security Council, if not the UN itself, for the UN will have shown itself unable to hold sway or authority over world events.

This is to put things the wrong way round.

Last November's binding 17th resolution (i.e. Resolution 1441) specifies serious consequences - the accepted euphemism for war - if Saddam does not disarm immediately, unconditionally and completely, which he hasn't. The 18th would give him a final deadline.

If the 18th resolution is defeated and/or vetoed by countries which know, as we all do, that the war is going ahead anyway, it is those voting No that will have done the damage. For they will have voted to not enforce the UN Security Council's own 17 prior resolutions, so demonstrating to all the world that the resolutions are meaningless and toothless. This would be foolhardy in the extreme.

For those who believe in the UN, it is time to demonstrate outside the embassies of France, Germany and Russia before those countries wreck the organisation. - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

Article to which this letter refers :
"War leaders risk flagrant breach of EU obligations and international law"


Madam, - Tony Allwright gets another opportunity to get it wrong (March 12th). In his previous letter of February 28th he questioned the future of the Irish Society of International Law and, in particular, my interpretation of Resolution 1441 that it does not constitute a basis for military action in Iraq. He asserts that "serious consequences" is the "accepted euphemism for war". This is an assertion without legal foundation.

Mr Allwright's interpretation does not accurately reflect the position of the majority of states in the Security Council during the debates and travaux preparatoires. Despite his rejection of my position, Mr Allwright subsequently altered his own (an affliction prevalent among the "hawks" in this debate).

If, as he asserted previously, Resolution 1441 (his mystical "17th" resolution) is a basis for military action, why does he now concede that an 18th resolution is required? What's happened to the force of his euphemism? The accurate de facto and de jure position is as I stated it (February 25th). My unchanged position is echoed in a letter from the "Group of 16" leading international lawyers to Tony Blair published in the Guardian last week. Mr Allwright's criticism of John Bruton's position (Opinion, March 11th) is rooted yet again in his ill-informed and consequently inaccurate reading of the obligations imposed by Resolution 1441 and the requirements that must be met before any authorisation of force can be made. - Yours, etc.,

COLM FAHY, BA, LLB, LLM, PRO, Irish Society of International Law, Dalkey, Co Dublin

Madam, - Tony Allwright states that "serious consequences" in UN-speak is "the accepted euphemism for war". Actually, the phrase was chosen to avoid the accepted euphemism, which is "all necessary steps". Resolution 1441 - even if the UN were to find Iraq in serious breach of it - does not condemn the nations of the world to look on complacently as hundreds of thousands of innocent citizens of Baghdad are slaughtered. (Even if it did, it would be better to be inconsistent than to abet a crime of this magnitude.)

The American Congress has missed its date with history by delegating responsibility for war to President Bush. The UN, in contrast, did not lock itself into any automatic war scenario and is now fulfilling its historical role with dignity. - Yours, etc.,

Rev JOSEPH O'LEARY, Sophia University, Tokyo, Japan.

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Madam, - Ireland should be proud of its tiny contribution - the use of Shannon Airport and Irish airspace - to the liberation of the Iraqi people.

And those who think this is a Christian crusade against Muslims should explain how it was that the same Christians bombed other Christians in Serbia to protect Muslims in Kosovo. - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

Article to which this letter refers :
"Cabinet supports US using Shannon"

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Madam, - So the Minister of Finance recommends to the Dáil that the period for protection for Government records should be raised to 10 years because it has "become clear that five years was not an adequate period" (The Irish Times, March 26th).

All he needs do now is to present the evidence showing clearly that five years is not adequate, and we will all applaud his wisdom in advocating the change.

But does any such evidence exist? - Yours etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

Article to which this letter refers :
" McCreevy insists amendments to FOI Act are 'minor' "

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Madam, - You give prominence to a round-robin letter (April 9th) from various unemployed presidents, prime ministers and princesses of Europe telling us that "to protect and promote culture is one of the most important tasks in Europe today."

It isn't. It's just one more excuse to skirt around completing the one task that will do most to improve the quality of lives of citizens of the EU.

The EU politicians, bureaucrats, would-bes and has-beens should direct their energies towards removing the remaining protectionist, poverty-creating barriers to the free trade that is the essence and overwhelming success of the EU.

Start with the Common Agricultural Policy, continue with insurance, pharmacology, etc. The list is long, difficult and unglamorous.

But it will do far more good than fluffing around with such things as culture, a constitution, a single foreign policy and so on, which Europe's great and good seem to enjoy so much. - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

Letter to which this letter refers:

Signed by : 
RICHARD VON WEIZSÄCKER, Former President of Germany;
PRINCESS MARGRIET of The Netherlands, President, European Cultural Foundation, Amsterdam;
INGVAR CARLSSON, Former Prime Minister of Sweden;
JACQUES DELORS, Former President of the European Commission;
DARIO DISEGNI, Chairman, European Foundation Centre;
GARRET FITZGERALD, Former Taoiseach of Ireland;
BRONISLAW GEREMEK, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Poland;
ARPAD GOENCZ, Former President of Hungary;
WIM KOK, Former Prime Minister of the Netherlands;
GIOVANNI PIERACCINI, President, Fondazione Romaeuropa;
ANDREI PLESU Former Minister of Culture and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Romania;
ELISABETH REHN, Former Minister of Defence, Finland.

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Madam, - Chris Murphy, a self-professed Roman Catholic, asks (April 23rd): "Why should I not have taken part in [a Church Of Ireland] Communion?"

Because the head of the Roman Catholic Church says so. It's one of the rules of the organisation - like not wearing a T-shirt in the golf club. - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

Letter to which this letter refers:


26th April 2003

Madam, - Tony Allwright (April 24th) says that Chris Murphy (a Roman Catholic) should not take part in a Church of Ireland Communion "because the head of the Roman Catholic Church says so. It's one of the rules of the organisation - like not wearing a T-shirt in the golf club."

The head of the Roman Catholic Church (Jesus) did not ask Judas - who had some misgivings about what was going on - to leave the table. Nor did Jesus refuse to share bread with unpopular tax collectors and Pharisees.

Inclusiveness rather than exclusiveness (even at great risk to himself) was how Jesus won people to believe in him. Mr Allwright's no-T-shirt golf club would probably have excluded Jesus as a member - and embraced a better dressed Pope. - Yours etc.,

DECLAN KELLY, Whitechurch Road, Rathfarnham, Dublin 14.

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Madam, - Your Editorial "Irish Food Prices" (June 3rd) hits the nail on the head. The Government should follow the Competition Authority's advice by opening up the retail business to full competition and tearing down all those restrictive practices.

The lower prices and higher quality that will result will benefit every single consumer (and, might I say, voter).

On the other hand, to maintain the status quo will benefit inefficient retailers (a much smaller group) by keeping prices high and saving them the inconvenience of getting their costs down and their value up.

Ireland's rich people can, of course, well afford those higher prices. The real burden falls on the least advantaged, those for whom the price of food is a real personal struggle. Why should they have to subsidise the inefficiencies of cossetted retailers?

The Government needs to decide. Will it protect producers or consumers? It cannot do both. - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

Editorial item to which this letter refers:

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Madam, - Trócaire's director, Justin Kilcullen, shamefully misquotes the US deputy defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz at the recent Asian Security Council (June 13th).

He has Wolfowitz saying, "Let's look at it simply. The most important difference between North Korea and Iraq is that economically we just had no choice in Iraq. The country swims on a sea of oil."

What Wolfowitz actually said was: "The most important difference between North Korea and Iraq is that we had virtually no economic options with Iraq because the country floats on a sea of oil. In the case of North Korea, the country is teetering on the edge of economic collapse and that I believe is a major point of leverage whereas the military picture with North Korea is very different from that with Iraq."

The sense was clearly that the US had no economic options by means of which to achieve its objectives, not that the economic value of the oil motivated the war. The Guardian posted the misquotation on its website on June 4th and published a correction the following day.

Mr Kilcullen should apologise to you and your readers [**for his disgraceful
canard, which I doubt was accidental]
. One would expect Trócaire to welcome the liberation of the Iraqi people from murderous tyranny, but anti-US ideology and hatred seem to come before humanitarianism. - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

**[phrase deleted by Editor]

Items to which this letter refers :

bulletJustin Kilcullen's letter to the Irish Times
bulletThe Guardian's Retraction on June 5th


Madam, - Tony Allwright (June 14th) is right to be critical of my use of the now discredited misquotation of Paul Wolfowitz in my letter of June 13th.

Nevertheless, I stand over the main thrust of my letter, which concerned the role of the UN in maintaining international peace and security and Ireland's adherence to this principle. Mr Wolfowitz may not have condemned himself and the US administration out of his own mouth but, with the continued glaring absence of the alleged casus belli - the weapons of mass destruction - the onus is still on the US to justify this illegal war.

While we join the Iraqi people in celebrating the demise of Saddam Hussein's regime, we continue to work alongside them, as we have been doing for the past 12 years, as they struggle to rebuild their lives amid the destruction of war and the daily descent into political anarchy.

As an organisation with a humanitarian mandate, Trócaire will continue to challenge those who, through their political and military actions, break international law and condemn millions of people to misery, be it in Iraq or elsewhere. - Yours, etc.,

JUSTIN KILCULLEN, Director, Trócaire, Maynooth, Co Kildare.


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Madam, - Your Editorial of July 10th on President's Bush's current Africa tour criticises America's relatively low aid-giving, but this needs to be seen in context.

America's development aid of 0.11 per cent of GNP, compared to Ireland's 0.35 per cent and the 0.7 per cent agreed at the 1992 Earth summit at Rio de Janeiro, is indeed the lowest percentage in the developed world. But it amounts to $11 billion a year which is 21 per cent of the world total.

And this is only America's public sector contribution. Americans help others abroad - just as they do domestically - primarily through private donations, foundations, corporate and university giving, religious offerings, and direct help to needy family members, which has been estimated at another $34 billion a year.

Conversely, Europeans give abroad primarily as they do at home - through their governments (the socialist approach which is much less painful for individuals).

In addition, the US provides the bulk of the world's research and development, which saves millions of lives with improvements in food and medicines. And most significantly, the US continues, especially in the Balkans, to carry at enormous expense much of the burden of European defence, which allows the Europeans the luxury of making larger aid contributions.

Europeans also benefit disproportionately from America's war on terror. - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

Editorial item in the Irish Times to which this letter refers : 

Source material for the above letter may be found here and here.  

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RUNAWAY COSTS OF LUAS - 2nd September 2003

Madam, - We are told that the Railway Procurement Agency's budget for building LUAS is €765 million and that the contractor AMB JV is claiming a further €50 million for variations (The Irish Times, September 1st). Variations arise for only one reason: the failure of the client, the RPA, to specify the work in sufficient detail before signing the contract; anything else is just excuses.

There is a saying, "The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in battle". It would appear that the RPA is bleeding because of inadequate (slipshod, sweat-free) planning work. And the contractor is being castigated for demanding payment for variations that by definition were not part of the original scope of the work. - Yours etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

Item to which this letter refers

"Brennan demands clampdown on EUR 50m Luas claim"
by Frank McDonald, Environment Editor

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US CALL FOR UN SUPPORT - 9th September 2003

Madam, - Brendan Horisk (September 8th) is entitled to his contempt for the Bush administration and his schadenfreude over America's struggles and casualties in Iraq, untempered as they are by the slightest expression of concern for the welfare of the Iraqi people.

But his advocacy of putting UN troops under UN rather than US command is irresponsible. He should remember the bomb that killed Sergio de Mello under the UN's protection, the Muslims murdered in Srebenica under UN protection, the Rwandan genocide, to mention a few events. Without security nothing else can be achieved. It is too important to be left to well-meaning amateurs. - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

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IRAQ UNDER OCCUPATION - 3rd October 2003

Madam, - Joe Murray, co-ordinator of Afri (October 1st), trots out the tired though familiar objections to the Iraq war (neglecting as usual that it delivered the "serious consequences" promised unanimously in UN Resolution 1441), and to the current occupation.

"Internationalising the occupation would not help the Iraqi people," he says, but "would, rather, buttress and lend a veneer of legitimacy to an illegal invasion."

So, Mr Murray, please tell us what would help the Iraqi people. Not internationalising the occupation and leaving it to the Americans, British, Poles, etc? An immediate handover to Iraqis? Which Iraqis, and on what basis?

How about immediate withdrawal? Would he advocate leaving the mutually antagonistic Shi'ites, Sunnis, Ba'athists, Saddamists, Kurds, Assyrians, Turkomen and others to arrange their affairs according to the Iraqi traditions of guns, bombs and warlords?

Can we please have a stop to moans and hand-wringing about Iraq unless accompanied by realistic alternative proposals that will help the unfortunate Iraqis rebuild their country and not make their current difficulties worse? - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

Letter to which this letter refers :

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Madam, - I am at a loss to understand who, other than its competitors and a handful of bureaucrats and politicians (a small number), can honestly object to Dunnes Stores selling goods at below cost to its customer (a large number).

You report (Business This Week, October 17th) that the independent grocer lobby warns that aggressive discounting by Dunnes could spark a damaging price war between the major multiples.

Good. That means lower prices for shoppers.

RGDATA, the organisation representing smaller retailers, says that although "consumers win through competitive activity in the marketplace", permitting Dunnes to drop its prices so drastically could push many smaller stores to the brink of ruin, costing hundreds of jobs. Are those hundreds more important than the hundreds of thousands of people who will benefit from the lower prices? If they can't compete, shouldn't they be doing something else? The Director of Consumer Affairs, Ms Carmel Foley, disapproves of in-store promotions, believing that keener across-the-board pricing offers better overall value to shoppers. Maybe so, but that's no reason to decry in-store promotions.

Why does no one simply ask shoppers, "Do you want lower prices, taking your chances as to whether that means higher prices in the future, or even lower prices? Or do you prefer to trust industrialists, bureaucrats and politicians when they say paying more today is good for you?" It's time the interests of the many consumers took precedence over those of the few producers and retailers. And we should remember that it is the poorest in society who benefit most from lower prices. Why should they subsidise protected producers and retailers? - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

Item to which this letter refers :
Edward Power


Madam, - Tony Allwright (October 21st) makes an excellent case for allowing Dunnes Stores to sell goods at below cost to its customers.

He puts the point that below-cost selling and the aggressive discounting it leads to has a very beneficial effect on the prices in large supermarkets and in the wider retail market. He is unconcerned by the financial effect on local, smaller shops.

His letter should have started with the sentence: "There is no possibility that I will not be able to drive a car at any time in the future". - Yours, etc.

Dr MICHAEL J. GANLY, Commons Road, Louglinstown, Co Dublin.

Note : I don't understand the last paragraph either.  The editor has probably left out a crucial sentence.   T

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Madam, - In berating Philip Donnelly's exquisite letter of January 2nd exposing the hypocrisy of the anti-Bushists and the anti-war movement, Brendan Butler, co-ordinator of the NGO Peace Alliance, recounts (January 6th) America's role in arming Saddam in the 1980s. He is correct to highlight this shameful episode.

But he is utterly illogical to imply that because America acted wrongly in supporting this murderous tyranny in the past, it should not act rightly to depose it in the present. Is no one allowed to reform from bad behaviour to good?

Saddam used to murder 30,000 of his citizens per year. The casualties of the Iraq war were well below this and the current killing rate but a tiny fraction. Why would the anti-war movement wish this had not happened? - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

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INSPECTIONS IN IRAN - 15th January 2004

Madam, - "Iran's agreement [to have its nuclear facilities inspected by the International Atomic Energy Authority to ensure it is not making weapons of mass destruction\] was a clear gesture to the European policy of engagement and a rejection of the US one of confrontation" (Editorial, January 14th).

I don't think so! Moammar Gadafy of Libya reportedly told Italy's Silvio Berlusconi in September last year, "I will do whatever the Americans want, because I saw what happened in Iraq, and I was afraid."

It is US confrontationalism that has driven Iran's mullahs to European-style engagement. We should thank both sides of the Atlantic for this successful bad-guy, good-guy routine. - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

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SINN FÉIN AND GARDA MCCABE - 19th February 2004

Madam, - The Sinn Féin TD Arthur Morgan writes compassionately of the "prisoners convicted of involvement in the tragic events that led to the death" of Garda McCabe. Is this clumsy phrase a new euphemism for "convicted killers"? - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

Item to which this letter refers :

18 Feb 2004

A chara, - Sean Ward (February 16th) poses the wrong question when he asks if I had a problem with Sinn Féin TDs being pictured with "the killer of Detective Jerry McCabe".

The real question is: Why are the prisoners convicted of involvement in the tragic events that led to the death of Garda McCabe still in jail, when they should have been released a long time ago, under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement? - Is mise,

ARTHUR MORGAN, TD, Teach Laighean, Sráid Chill Dara, Baile Átha Cliath 2.


16 February 2004

Madam, - The Sinn Féin TD Arthur Morgan finds it "inappropriate" for the Minister for the Environment, Martin Cullen, to be photographed in the company of attractive female models (The Irish Times, February 13th). Did he have a problem with Sinn Féin TDs being pictured, smiling proudly, beside the killer of Detective Jerry McCabe in Castlerea Prison last year? - Yours etc.,

SEAN WARD, Sutton Park, Dublin 13.

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BUSH AND GAY MARRIAGES - 27th February 2004

Madam, - "If we are to prevent the meaning of marriage from being changed forever, our nation must enact a constitutional amendment to protect marriage in America," President Bush said a few days ago (World News, February 25th).

Barely a month after Britney Spears's 55-hour marriage, a Martian tourist would surely think the president was contemplating a ban on divorce, since this is indubitably responsible for massive abuse of the sanctity of marriage by undermining its very inviolability ("till death to us part").

But no, it seems gays are the problem. If two of them take vows to commit themselves to each other for life, my own marriage has apparently been weakened.

Can someone please explain how. - Yours, etc,,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.


4th March 2004

Madam, - Tony Allwright (February 27th) asks for someone to explain how the meaning of marriage could be weakened by gay people taking vows to commit themselves to each other for life.

Simply by consulting a dictionary we can see that marriage is defined as the union of a man and a woman in wedlock as husband and wife.

Most married people in this country, on their wedding day, will have heard the words, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh."

The average reader should have no problem understanding that the word marriage applies to a heterosexual union and that it carries with it the possibility of the most intimate and creative relationship known to mankind. Why set any other expectation for it? - Yours, etc.,

SEAMUS O'CALLAGHAN, Bullock Park, Carlow.

Now, now, Seamus, you know you're not answering the question - "how has my own marriage been weakened ?"  Frankly, I couldn't care less what two gays promise each other or do in their bedroom.  It's certainly not going to weaken my marriage and make separation more likely !

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Madam, - Kevin Myers writes that "the mob that killed Jesus was probably aroused by religious tribal pride, by the Passover, and the messianic passions which regularly convulsed the people of Judea" (An Irishman's Diary, March 2nd).

Though a Jewish mob indeed bayed for a crucifixion, no Jews tortured or killed Jesus. It was the Romans who did the deed. As the occupying power with the force of law on their side, they alone, and not the Jews, were responsible. They and every sinner. - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

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Madam, - Up to early last week, the ruling Partido Popular held a narrow lead in the Spanish polls. It is understandable however, that after the Madrid massacre which Al Qaeda claimed was (in part) retaliation for Spain's participation in the Iraq war, Spanish voters - 90 per cent of whom had opposed the war - swung against the PP and elected the avowedly anti-war Socialist Party.

What is diabolical, however, is the immediate announcement by the likely new prime minister, José Luis Zapatero, that he will withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq. Al-Qaeda murdered 200 innocent civilians and injured over 1,500 more. Its reward is to have reversed the probable outcome of an election and secured the retreat of an enemy. Mr Zapatero could have made no more overt act of appeasement in the face of terror, nor handed Al Qaeda a greater victory.

Thus has he further imperilled citizens of all democracies, for al-Qaeda will be greatly encouraged to try this more often. - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney,  Dublin.


19 March 2004

Madam, - Has democracy become an optional extra for supporters of the war in Iraq? Tony Allwright (March 17th) claims that the announcement by Spain's new leader, Mr Zapatero, that he will withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq is "diabolical" and an appeasement of terror.

What is it about democracy that Mr Allwright doesn't understand? Mr Zapatero made a pre-election pledge to end the deeply unpopular Spanish involvement in the Iraq war. The Spanish people elected his Socialist Party last Sunday and now he is implementing the anti-war approach endorsed by the Spanish voters. Spain's new leader is not appeasing al-Qaeda, but representing the will of the Spanish people.

While fulfilling election promises is currently unusual in Ireland, it is otherwise considered an essential element in democratic politics. - Yours, etc.,

JOHN WALSH, Dunshaughlin, Co Meath.


23 March 2004

Madam, - Tony Allwright (March 17th) says it is understandable that the Spanish swung against the Partido Popular because of its stance on the invasion of Iraq but that it is "diabolical" for the new Prime Minister to announce that he will withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq - even though he promised this in his election manifesto.

Strange; in Ireland we complain when Governments do not honour their promises.

I hope Mr Allwright will read Paddy Woodworth's balanced article in your edition of March 17th. "Spaniards show how democracy is best weapon against terrorism". - Yours, etc.,

Mrs MARY STEWART, Ardeskin, Donegal Town.

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Madam, - Simon Wrest (March 18th) fears that "Mr McDowell has found himself an election gimmick that attracts the part of the population who want a mythical Ireland that is 100 per cent Gaelic, Catholic and white". It would be interesting to test how big that part is in a referendum, bearing in mind that almost every civil conflict in the world (the North, Spain, Yugoslavia, Kashmir, Mexico, Rwanda, Nigeria, Indonesia, Kurdistan, to name but a few) revolves around differences in ethnicity and/or religion.

Voters might think it prudent to minimise the scope in Ireland for such conflicts and tensions in the future. - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

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Madam, - The forthcoming referendum provides a splendid opportunity for the people of Ireland to express their support for the current arrangements whereby all babies born in the island of Ireland are entitled to Irish citizenship. The basis for the anti-referendum campaign, therefore, can only [be that they] the fear the people will in fact reject these arrangements.

The opponents of the referendum are afraid of democracy. - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

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Madam, - Raymond Deane, chairman of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, writes (May 5th) that "between 1987 and 1999 Israel had the distinction of being the only state with pretensions to democratic status actually to have legalised such torture".

Pretensions? It is the only democratic state in the Middle East. No Arab in the Middle East enjoys more democratic rights and freedoms than Israeli Arabs. Israel's major decisions, such as whether or not to hand Gaza unilaterally to the Palestinians or to use what it calls moderate force during interrogations, are taken openly in the glare of the media, and constitutionally.

He goes on to state that "torture only arouses an international outcry if photographic evidence makes it into our newspapers; once again, Israel escapes with impunity". Escape with impunity? Israel is regularly castigated. The phrase would be better applied to every Arab and Farsi state in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Authority. Every single one of them (bar perhaps Iraq and Afghanistan) is a dictatorship that routinely practices torture as state policy.

If Mr Deane truly cared about human rights he would direct his ire at those dictatorships before selecting Israel.- Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

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Madam, - It's fine to criticise Israel's behaviour, but not to invent facts to bolster your arguments.

Rory O'Grady (May 22nd) accuses Israel of carrying out massacres at Sabra, Shatila and Rafah. The facts are that hate-filled Lebanese Christian militias perpetrated the first two. Rafah was a battle between Israeli forces and Palestinian fighters who got the worse end of it - and yes, sadly, some civilians were also killed. But it was no massacre.

I'm surprised Mr O'Grady didn't also invoke Jenin, another invented non-massacre by Israel. - Yours, etc.,



Co Dublin.


29th May 2004

Madam, - Tony Allwright (May 25th) should study the principles of the Nuremberg Tribunal (1950), in particular Principle VII: "Complicity in the commission of a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity. . . is a crime under international law".

To claim that it was "hate-filled Lebanese Christian militias" that perpetrated the Sabra and Shatila massacre and that Israel therefore bears no responsibility overlooks the fact that these militias were Israel's allies and that the slaughter was supervised by the Israeli army.

At the time the Kahan Commission found the then defence minister, Ariel Sharon, "indirectly responsible" for the massacre. He was stripped of his ministry and deemed "unfit for public office" - a judgment repeatedly vindicated by his subsequent conduct as prime minister as exemplified by - yes - the massacres at Jenin and Rafah.

The Nuremberg Tribunal was established in the wake of the Nazi horror to ensure that henceforth neither those "merely obeying orders" nor those "merely giving orders" could escape responsibility. It is darkly ironic that neither an unconditional defender of Israel like Mr Allwright nor the state that he defends is prepared to learn such lessons. - Yours, etc.,

RAYMOND DEANE, Chairman, Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Dublin 1.

See my own response, unpublished by the Irish Times, to Mr Deane's letter at
Non-Israeli Massacres and Israeli Non-Massacres,

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Madam, - It's good to see Paddy Ashdown taking some decisive action by sacking those responsible for failing (despite a US0-sponsored reward of $5 million) to arrest alleged Bosnian war criminal Radovan Karadzic (July 1st).

Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic, both in hiding for the past seven years, are two of the world's most wanted men. The UN war crimes tribunal has indicted them for, inter alia, the 43-month siege of Sarajevo and the massacre of some 6,000 of Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995, during the 1992-95 war of the Yugoslav succession which killed over 200,000 people.

Many people bemoan the failure of NATO-led Stabilisation Force (SFOR) to catch these men and put them on trial in The Hague, to join their erstwhile colleague Slobodan Milosevic. However, the indictment process itself wreaks terrible retribution on the indictee.

Think about it from Karadzic's own point of view, for example. His movements are extremely constrained. Not only dare he not stray beyond Bosnia or perhaps Montenegro, but even within these relative safe havens he cannot move without extreme caution and surrounded by up to 80 body guards. The Bosnian capital Pale, pretty dismal at the best of times and still not recovered from the war, must be a pretty boring place to be stuck in, virtually forever. For the man will see no end in sight, but constant hiding and harassment.

Though he has squirreled away ill-gotten millions, there will be no sunny holidays for him, no shopping trips to Harrods, no celebrity blondes on his arm, no Caribbean cruises with his grandchildren, no meals in world-class restaurants, no ringside (or any) seats at international concerts and events, no meetings with the great and the good. Just Pale.

And it is a lifetime sentence. All his money is good for is paying his army of personal bodyguards. And one day - perhaps in 10 or 25 years time - the money will have disappeared and therefore so will the bodyguards.

Yet the risk of arrest will persist.

Think about how the indictment process ruined the retirements of General Pinochet of Chile and Idi Amin of Uganda to name just two others.

And here's the thing. These ghastly people have, effectively, been charged, tried, found guilty and then sentenced to these miserable life-long punishments. This has all been done, in absentia, via the presentation of unchallenged evidence to a faceless committee operating behind closed doors, and without the defendants ever having the chance to put up a defence.

Their only way out, if you can call it that, is to present themselves for trial to the tribunal that has indicted them and hope that the terms of their imprisonment are shorter than the lifetime sentences they are otherwise serving.

So do not think that Radovan Karadzic and his ilk are "getting away with murder". They are certainly undergoing very lengthy, bitter punishments. -Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

See original blog item of August 2002, NATO Still Seeking Indictees Karadzic and Mladic on which this letter is based.

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Madam, - Your Editorial (July 20th) states that "the factions struggling for power in Gaza. . . include a well-organised fundamentalist group around Hamas, who believe in an all-out confrontation with Israel rather than a negotiated peace leading to a two-state outcome"

No Palestinian leadership organisation, Arafatish or otherwise, believes or has ever believed in a two-state outcome. That is why the Palestinian leadership rejected a two-state outcome when offered one in 1937, 1948, 1967 and 2000. Whether the Palestinian people favour such an outcome we have never known because they have never been asked or enjoyed democratic, representative leadership. The Israelis, as you point out, do favour a two-state outcome.

As repeatedly demonstrated by its behaviour, the current Palestinian leadership, like its forerunners, favours a one-state outcome - meaning the destruction of Israel and the creation of the first-ever Arab state on the current Israel/Palestine landmass. Attempting to deal with a group that openly says so, such as Hamas and its ilk, would be more honest and thus probably more fruitful. - Yours. etc.,



Co Dublin

See also blog item of July 2004, Palestinians Deserve Regime Change, on which this letter is partly based.

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Madam, - "The IMO will continue to defend the rights of doctors to act as advocates for their patients, especially those in the less well-off sections of our communities." So says Dr James Reilly, President of the Irish Medical Organisation, the doctors' union (July 24th).

In a producer/consumer relationship, you cannot back both because they have fundamentally different interests. If the IMO is an advocate for patients (who are the consumers of doctors' services), then it cannot simultaneously back its members, the doctors (i.e. the producers).

Dr Reilly should cut the double-speak. - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

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Madam, - Whatever happened to the word "yes"?

Every question by discussants on radio and TV when replied to in the affirmative is answered by the portmanteau word "absolutely".

Shall we soon find in our dictionaries against the word "yes" the notation "arch."? Oh, absolutely! - Yours, etc.,

WALTER C. ALLWRIGHT, Ardoyne House, Pembroke Park, Dublin 4.


MUST TRY HARDER - 5th August 2004

Madam, - Do the readers of your newspaper have nothing better to do with their time? Day in, day out, I read letters about asinine subjects including the reluctance of public figures to use th, how people pronounce the letter "r" and the fact that two half-pints of Guinness cost more than one whole pint of Guinness.

I can only conclude that these readers have very little to worry about. - Yours, etc.,

VALERIE HARVEY, Rathdown Crescent, Dublin 6W.


Irish Times Weekend Review - Saturday 7th August 2004

Labouring the ballpoint - by Frank McNally

The Last Straw: I see that the standard of letters to this paper has come under attack in - of all places - the letters page, writes Frank McNally.  Valerie Harvey (IT, Thursday) laments the recent domination of "asinine" subjects including: "the reluctance of public figures to use the word 'yes' instead of 'absolutely'; how people pronounce the letter 'r'; and the fact that two half-pints of Guinness cost more than one whole pint".

She asks: "Do readers of your newspaper have nothing better to do?" This would be harsh criticism at any time, but in August, it's downright unreasonable. Speaking as a columnist, I would like to express solidarity with our hard-pressed correspondents, most of whom (in the examples cited) at least had the virtue of brevity. I know just how difficult it is to find anything substantial to complain about at this time of year, when few issues can be stretched further than the length of a two-paragraph bottom-of-the-page letter to the editor. Here, for example, are my thoughts for the week. ...  Continue here



VARIETY, THE SPICE OF LIFE - 11th August 2004

Madam, - Valerie Harvey (August 5th) asks your readers if they have nothing better to do with their time than to report on "asinine subjects". She cites letters about public figures using the word "absolutely" instead of "yes" and how people pronounce the letter "r". Is Ms Harvey aware of the best-selling book on punctuation, Eats, Shoots and Leaves? Its topic could be described by many as "asinine".

Remember what William Cowper said way back in 1785: "Variety is the spice of life, That gives it all its flavour".

Variety, incidently, is why I read the letters page in The Irish Times. - Yours, etc.,

BRENDA MORGAN, Asgard Park, Howth, Co Dublin

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AER LINGUS STRATEGY - 3rd September 2004

Madam, - Several recent correspondents** have been berating Aer Lingus for reduction of services and costs in order to be competitive and not lose money. May I suggest that if they feel so strongly, they chip in their own money so that Aer Lingus can continue to provide a level and variety of service that its customers are no longer prepared to pay for?

Their implication that the State - i.e. the taxpayer - should resume providing subsidies to support tight-fisted customers is outrageous. - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

** namely, Mr/Ms Walsh, Irwin, Lombard, Butler, and Capt Cullen, President of the Irish Airline Pilots' Association)

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Madam, - Dominic Bryan of QUB's Institute of Irish Studies (September 7th) blathers that "we have to attempt to understand why non-state actors commit such terrible atrocities as that in Beslan. We need to understand why they use certain tactics..."

Actually, we need to hunt down such non-state actors and kill them. No excuses. - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.



Madam, - It is interesting that the "neo-con" view - the perspective that underlies the present US administration's policy - enjoys such strong support from Irish Times letter-writers and columnists.

Eric Deane (September 10th) writes that we have to defeat the beliefs that underlie Islamic fundamentalist terrorist atrocities primarily by military means. Tony Allwright (September 9th) says we "need to hunt down such non-state actors and kill them. No excuses". (Nonsense, of course, since he is talking about suicide bombers.) And John Waters tells us (Opinion, September 6th), in his ridiculous use of the Beslan atrocity to justify the policies of Bush and Blair, that they are protecting our children's lives.

Military adventures advocated by the neo-cons - such as invading Iraq (for dubious reasons, but stated as the defence of freedom and democracy) - can only have strengthened Arab unrest and Islamic fundamentalism and increased the likelihood of further terrorist atrocities. Palestinians are unjustly treated in their own land and are having their homes and their land stolen from them by the US's ally Israel. They have wide support in the Arab world and the unquestioning US defence of Israel's militarily-enforced apartheid policy - for US domestic political reasons - foments further anti-Western beliefs. Russian military policy in Chechnya, where the population has been decimated, has increased the risk of further anti-civilian atrocities in Russia.

What is it with the neo-cons' world view that they have no concept of cause, and no idea other than war - bombing, killing, terrorising and invading other countries, and blaming those who react atrociously to state-sponsored terrorism for being the "terrorists" whose actions justify further killing by the state. But then, perhaps they have the clinching argument - that those of us who disagree are just "Pollyanna pacifists". - Yours, etc.,

GERRY MOLLOY, Collins Avenue, Dublin 9.


AFTERMATH OF BESLAN SIEGE - 16th September 2004

Madam, - Tony Allwright (September 9th), commenting on the Beslan hostage-takers, writes: "We need to hunt down such non-state actors and kill them. No excuses". This displays a mentality uncomfortably close to that of the terrorists: brute force the only answer.

Many of us would beg to differ. The policies being followed in Chechnya and elsewhere are feeding, not fighting, terrorism. The "non-state actors" could not function without a lot of support. If a fraction of the resources used in "fighting terrorism" were to be diverted to a war on the greatest enemies, inequality, poverty and disease, much of that support would fade away.

The human race being what it is, there will always be fanatics and criminals of all types. The greatest bulwark against their influence will ever be a fair and just society. - Yours, etc.,

JAMES MORAN, Knockanure, Bunclody, Co Wexford.

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ISRAELI ATTACKS IN GAZA - 6th October 2004

Madam, - As I am sure Raymond Deane, Chair of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, is well aware (October 5th), Israel's incursion into Gaza is aimed at eliminating those who are launching rocket attacks at civilian targets within Israel. The Palestinian leadership is, as usual, making no serious effort to curtail these.  

The pattern is depressingly familiar. Palestinians militants, hiding shamefully behind their own civilians, target Israeli civilians. Israel targets the perpetrators and in the process also kills civilian bystanders. Israel gets all the blame. Apologists for those who consistently target civilians consider the correct Israeli response is, well, to do nothing.  [But then the mindless destruction of Israel and of Jews is their only aim. - editors's deletion]

And, by the way, Israel does not "purport" to be democratic. It is democratic. Name another state in the Middle East with any democratic legitimacy whatsoever, from universal suffrage to a free press to an independent supreme court. Or name one with even the freedom to establish bodies which are openly anti-government, or pro-gay, or atheist. Again, Israel is the only such country. - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.


ISRAELI ATTACKS IN GAZA - 12th October 2004

Madam, - In my letter of October 5th, I described "the murder by Hamas of two Israeli children" as "a horrible and futile crime", before condemning the ensuing and massively disproportionate Israeli invasion of Jabaliya, and the inadequate response of the European Union.

In his reply the next day Tony Allwright complained that "Israel gets all the blame" and referred to "apologists for those who consistently target \ civilians" implicitly including myself among these apologists.

I leave it to the judicious reader to determine whether Mr Allwright has accurately summed up my position. - Yours, etc.,

RAYMOND DEANE, Chair, Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Dublin 1.



Madam, - While objecting to my letter of October 6th, Raymond Deane, Chair of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (October 12th) understandably dodges my challenge: to name a Middle East state other than Israel (and now Afghanistan) with any democratic legitimacy whatsoever, from universal suffrage to a free press to an independent supreme court.

Or name one with even the freedom to establish bodies which are openly anti-government, or pro-gay, or atheist. There is none. - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

Note: This challenge, up to then unanswered by Mr Deane or anyone else,
was posed for the
third time two years later

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Madam, - Rocco Buttiglione has caused trouble for daring to say that homosexual behaviour is a sin but not a crime. This is unacceptable hypocrisy to many, such as your correspondent Paul Bowler who ends his letter (Oct 28th), "To say something is wrong but not a crime does nothing but nurture the bile that can easily erupt into violence, both physical and legal".

Where does this leave adultery, the deliberate breaking of a central marital vow, which is widely acknowledged to be wrong but not a crime? Where are Mr Bowler's bile and violence, both physical and legal? The closest we've seen is the EU's bile that erupted when Turkey recently tried to eliminate the dichotomy by criminalising adultery.

Western freedom and democracy, unlike for example Islam, are all about distinguishing human laws from religious convictions, precisely what Signor Buttiglione proposed to do over homosexuality. - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

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RE-ELECTION OF GEORGE BUSH - 8th November 2004

Madam, - There are many of us who are convinced that Islamic terrorism is the single gravest threat facing mankind today, and we thus welcome America's and Britain's courageous resolve in confronting it, and indeed Ireland's small contribution in refuelling the US Air Force in Shannon. We therefore welcome George Bush's re-election because he has demonstrated his resolve (if also a degree of incompetence), whereas his opponent, John Kerry, despite his words, made many feel that cut-and-run was his primary instinct. Osama bin-Laden will rest less easy, as his defeatist video just before the election makes plain.

In the wake of the Republican wave of success in not only the White House but also in Congress, the Senate and Governorships, it is an added delight to read no fewer than five hysterically condemnatory letters in your issue of November 5th.

Finding oneself on the wrong side of the argument is so very hard to bear. - Yours, etc,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.


THE GREATEST THREAT - 15th November 2004

Madam, - Tony Allwright (November 8th) writes: "There are many of us who are convinced that Islamic terrorism is the single gravest threat facing mankind today". This is arrant nonsense. One hundred times a greater threat is global warming. Tuesday's edition carried a report headed, "Accelerated Arctic thaw threatens livelihood of millions". Already even America is feeling the effects of global warming in the increased ferocity of the cycle of tornadoes attacking her shores.

And on this score President Bush - and indeed all his immediate predecessors in office - has been criminally negligent, refusing to sign the Kyoto Conventions, and refusing to do anything effective against greenhouse gas emissions that might hurt his big-business supporters in their pockets.

The US is by far the greatest polluter. In a few years the effects of this negligence will be felt in America, but always the greatest sufferers will be the desperately poor people of the world who live in their millions in the alluvial lowlands of Asia.

Compared with this imminent threat, Islamic fundamentalist terrorism is small beer. - Yours, etc.,

DAVID ROWE, Woodside Road, Dublin 18

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Madam, - Jonathan Irwin (November 23rd) wonders why Ireland cannot follow tiny Dubai's lead and build a magnificent sports city. The answer is democracy. Dubai is a dictatorship. Dictators are often excellent at delivering magnificent projects - using, as always, other people's money.

However, being good at delivering projects is different from delivering good projects. Democracies are messy creatures, but one thing they don't do is deliver grand projects that their people, who will have to pay for them, don't want. Would that those living under dictatorship should be so lucky. - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

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DISASTER IN SOUTH-EAST ASIA - 31st December 2004

Madam, - What on earth does Cllr Tony McDermott of the Green Party (December 30th) think would be achieved by having a day of mourning on January 3rd for the tsunami victims in which "all Government Departments and offices be closed" - and no doubt businesses as well? What an empty, worthless and cynical gesture.

Rather than extending the Christmas/New Year break, he would be better proposing that everyone work an extra day, say a Sunday, in order to donate the extra wages earned to the victims. - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

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Madam, - Dr Connor K. Farren (January 3rd) fails to explain why MEAS's proposals (such as advocating moderation) should be rejected.

Instead, like others, he simply disparages MEAS for calling itself independent of the drinks industry when it is funded by the drinks industry.

This is a fair point.

However, may I therefore question whether Dr Farren is himself independent of the anti-drinking industry since he advertises himself as chairman of the substance misuse faculty at the Irish College of Psychiatrists and consultant addiction psychiatrist at the St Patrick's Hospital?

Since when did it become admissible for one industry (anti-drinking) to promote its interests, but not another (pro-drinking)? - Yours etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

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http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/letters/2005/0125/index.html#1104400421827Madam, - 


Your Editorial of January 24th asserts: "Time and again, the ordinary people of Iraq say what they want: an end to violence and the ability to lead normal lives. The fact that they cannot yet is the fault mainly of the US-led coalition forces".

Excuse me? I thought the violence was being perpetrated by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and other insurgents, as the same article admits. The coalition's military action is directed at defeating this, not perpetuating the war.

To test this hypothesis, do you believe that if the coalition were to cease its action or depart, the insurgent violence would stop? - Yours etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.



Madam, - Tony Allwright ( letters January 25th ) asks: "Do you believe that if the coalition were to cease its action or depart, the insurgent violence would stop?"

Let's really test his hypothesis and give peace a chance . - Yours, etc.,

BRENDAN BUTLER, NGO Peace Alliance , Phibsborough Road, Dublin 7.

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Madam, - In talking about Palestinian refugees' right to return to Israel, Raymond Deane, Chairman of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, speaks of Jewish people returning, "after almost 2,000 years, to a country that happens to be inhabited by another people" (January 25th).

As he will know, the Jews have lived continuously throughout the Middle East, and in the Palestine/Israel land mass in particular, for more than 3,000 years. Their history of defeat, persecution and pogroms by, successively, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Crusaders and Arabs attests to this.

Thus their right to continued settlement is at least equal to that of the Arabs.

As for the 750,000 Palestinian refugees who fled or were pushed out in the 1947/48 war launched and lost by the Arabs, why are they and their descendents still refugees? A similar number of Jews fled or were pushed out of Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and other Arab countries as a result of the same conflict, not to mention the millions fleeing from Europe.

Every single one was absorbed by fellow Jews, mainly in Israel, and given citizenship.

Why have the Palestinians never been absorbed by their fellow Arabs? How many Palestinians hold Saudi passports?

The Palestinian refugee problem exists only because of:

(a) Israel's refusal to massacre them in 1948, as it could have (who doubts that the Jews would have been massacred had they lost? as for example
all the Jewish villagers of Kfar Etzion were killed that year when they surrendered to the Arab Legion's Sixth Battalion[Ref 1]
                                                                             ** deleted by Madam Editor

(b) the disdain of fellow Arabs for Palestinians ever since.

Meanwhile, the recent election of Mahmoud Abbas, who promotes a combination of toughness and non-violence towards Israel, gives the Palestinians the first chance of a peaceful resolution to their piteous situation in a generation. - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

**[Ref 1] Morris, Benny,  "The Road to Jerusalem: Glubb Pasha, Palestine and the Jews", 2003, p214



Madam, - Tony Allwright (January 27th) is disingenuous when he suggests that millions of Palestinians remain refugees only because the Arab states refuse them rights.

He wilfully ignores Israel's responsibility for the expulsion of the Palestinians in 1947-48, and the fact that that expulsion preceded and largely caused the flight of Jews from Arab countries.

Palestinians were not pushed out "in the. . .war launched and lost by the Arabs". If Mr Allwright looks at the latest book by the major scholar of these events - The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, by the Israeli historian Benny Morris (Cambridge University Press, 2004), he will see that Palestinians were already being cleared from their villages (and massacred, as at Dayr Yasin), by the Hagannah and the Irgun, before May 15th, 1948 and the attack on Israel by the Arab armies.

Accordingly, to write that the refugee problem exists because of "'Israel's refusal to massacre" Palestinians in 1948 is a historical and moral travesty. - Yours, etc.,

CONOR McCARTHY, De Vesci Court, Dún Laoghaire, Co. Dublin.

This letter also appears in a student webpage from University College Cork.  


I stumbled across this letter in cyperspace from Dav in Dublin, which appears to have been sent to the Irish Times but not published. 

Thursday 27th January 2005

Dear Sir/Madam,

"Strange" letter in The Irish Times
Rights of Palestinians

Mr. Allwright has made some shocking statements in todays Irish Times, although the printing of his letter may have been in the interests of attempting to provide a fair and balanced account, it has however made for quite uncomfortable reading. In a sweeping acerate condensation of the conflict Mr. Allwright states: "The Palestinian refugee problem exists only because of: (a) Israel's refusal to massacre them in 1948, as it could have (who doubts that the Jews would have been massacred had they lost?) (b) the disdain of fellow Arabs for Palestinians ever since."

This is one of the most shameful statements I have read in this paper. We are to believe that it was Israeli restraint in not culling the remaining Palestinains and/or the fact that fellow Arabs have not welcomed them into their countries in the following years the reason for the refugee status of the population.

Why does the fact that other Arab countries have not aided the Palestinians sufficiently have any bearing on the situation. Is it their responsibility to address the situation any more than it is ours?

He says, quite rightly that [Israeli] "right to continued settlement is at least equal to that of the Arabs" and this is the very reason a two state solution is being sought. This unfortunately [has been] "unilaterally blocked for the last 30 years by the US" (Noam Chomsky). And while this stalement continues to exist, the most basic of human rights is being violated "Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country" (article 13, Universal Declaration of Human Rights). Even on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz we have yet to learn the lessons it was said to have taught us.

Yours sincerely,


See also these related blog posts - 

Why are Palestinian Refugees Still Refugees? - 30th January 200511


The Passionate Left and Logical Right - 7th March 2005

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Madam, - Insurance charges would drop at a stroke were the protective barriers removed that prevent insurers elsewhere in the EU from selling policies to the Irish market. There is no reason why, say, a Greek or Hungarian insurer willing to sell insurance in this country should be prevented from doing so.

The EU's greatest strength is its common market; it should be given free rein. - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.


EU INSURANCE MARKET - 17th March 2005

Madam, - I refer to a letter published in your paper on March 11th, "Barriers to insurance market", regarding the provision of insurance services in Ireland by insurance companies located in the European Union.

I would like to clarify for your readers that there is no regulatory prohibition to prevent insurers elsewhere in the EU from selling policies to the Irish market. Under European Union legislation, an insurance company authorised to do business in one member-state is free to transact business throughout the Union either by way of establishing a branch or by freedom of services on a cross-border basis.

To date more than 580 insurance firms have notified the Irish Financial Regulatory Authority of their intention to transact business in Ireland and more than 40 European insurance firms have set up branches in this jurisdiction. - Yours, etc.,

JILL FORDE, Press Officer, Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority, Dublin 2.

Note: Ms Forde also sent me this letter in the mail.  I don't believe a word of it, since there is no foreign insurance company selling insurance in Ireland on the basis and rates that it operates in its home country.  [Still none in 2012!]

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Madam, - Your pages and the airwaves have been full of people decrying the Taoiseach's failure to declare a national day off to allow people to mourn the Pope's passing, which they attribute to Ireland's worship of mammon rather than God.

Yet those who want a day of mourning can simply take a day from their annual holidays, or an unpaid day off. Who is really placing mammon first? - Yours, etc.,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

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Madam, - It is good to learn that the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Adoption Board are sending representatives to Indonesia to try to resolve the Tristan Dowse case.

I trust all costs will be charged to his parents, Mr and Mrs Dowse. - Yours, etc,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

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Madam, - Brid Connolly (Letters, May 17th) draws from her experience with helping women cope with unwanted pregnancies and concludes that "having an abortion is not a positive option. It was simply that it was the less awful, horrific, of two negative options". The mother's other two options to which she refers were giving the child up for adoption or raising him/her herself as a single mum rejected by her family. For whom, exactly, was abortion a "less awful, horrific option"? Surely not the infant. Oh, I forgot. The baby doesn't count. - Yours etc,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

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'LIVE 8', DEBT RELIEF AND AFRICA - 7th June 2005

Madam, - Barbara Garson (Opinion, June 2nd) is right to challenge the focus of the World Bank under its new neo-conservative boss Paul Wolfowitz, on "creating an atmosphere in which private investment. . .is encouraged" as the route to poverty reduction. She is right because encouraging private investment is necessary but not sufficient.

The real solution to world poverty is world democracy. History and the evidence is all around us that without democracy nothing else will work. The World Bank should therefore make every offer of assistance dependent on, and released in proportion to, democratisation. Otherwise the tyrants will just continue to steal the money and the poor will remain poor.

I would be surprised if Mr Wolfowitz fails to articulate this in due course. Perhaps Bob Geldof and "Live 8" will also. - Yours, etc,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.


8th June 2005

Madam, - Tony Allwright (June 6th) stresses the importance of world democracy in alleviating world poverty. On the same page Dr L.F. Lacey talks about the need for good governance in Africa. I would not disagree with either correspondent. If only the World Bank's big sister, the International Monetary Fund, could be similarly persuaded.

In March this year, Ghana's democratically elected government was forced - by IMF pressure - to use emergency measures to overturn a two-year-old parliamentary act which had the purpose of increasing import taxes on rice and poultry. The country's beleaguered farmers had quite properly petitioned their elected MPs to do something about the glut of heavily subsidised American rice and European chickens being dumped on their home markets.

Forcing a fledgling West African economy to lower its defences against subsidised imports is deeply hypocritical, and it makes a green and fertile country unnecessarily aid-dependent. The issue of interfering in another country's democracy is something that the G8 leaders might care to raise with the IMF when next they meet. - Yours, etc,

Communications & Media Manager, Christian Aid Ireland,
Clanwilliam Terrace, Dublin 2.


9th June 2005

Madam, - An interesting couple of weeks lie ahead for British prime minister Tony Blair as he sees if his gamble of supporting President Bush in Iraq will pay off with US acceptance of his plan on African debt relief and long-term reform.

Unfortunately it seems once again that Mr Bush and the US Congress are putting the economic status quo of the West ahead of any long-term improvement in Africa. Instead we are likely to see more financial aid being handed over to alleviate poverty and starvation - which in itself is to be welcomed but will not remove the long-term causes of these problems.

Some contributors to this page have pointed to the weakness of African leadership and the lack of democracy in many African countries. In most cases this is a result of the West weakening Africa by turning a blind eye to the activities of multinational corporations on the continent. These corporations have undermined any chance of self-sufficiency in Africa by funding despotic regimes which allow the exploitation of natural resources there. Western governments also play their part by continuing to subsidise Western agriculture and industry while simultaneously calling for globalisation of markets. All the West does is ease its own conscience by increasing charity donations. Of course Mr Bush is not interested in real reform; it is not in the interests of his backers.

Ironically, figures for global militarisation published yesterday show an increase to over $1 trillion dollars for 2004, more than half of that in the US defence budget alone. - Yours, etc,

BARRY WALSH, Blackrock, Cork.

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Madam, - I share the revulsion of Diarmaid Mac Dermott (June 13th) that Co Dublin is to be besmirched with yet a third restaurant named after Mao Zedong, the most evil and depraved man that history has produced.

I would sooner feast in Café Hitler, Café Stalin, Café Saddam, Café Pol Pot, Café Pinochet, Café Ho Chi Minh, Café Kim Il Sung & Son and countless others than set foot in Cafe Mao.

I challenge its owners to defend their disgraceful choice of name, or change it. - Yours, etc,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

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Madam, - Ruaidhrí Deasy, deputy president of the Irish Farmers' Association, treats us to some Cap facts (Letters, June 22nd), intended to defend the Cap.

For example, "only 38 per cent of the EU budget of €114.7 billion is spent on agriculture".

How did the word "only" get there? Here are few other "onlys" in the public domain: A. The Cap adds only €700 to each EU family's annual food bill[*]; B. Agriculture accounts for only 5 per cent of the EU's workforce[**]; C. On RTÉ's Questions and Answers on June 20th (where you served admirably on the panel), a farmer openly admits that EU subsidies account for 60-80 per cent of Irish family farm income[***]; in other words their actual work is worth only 20-40 per cent to their customers.

So with agriculture, we have an industry so woefully valueless that (most of) it should be abandoned, yet 95 per cent of successful taxpaying individuals and enterprises are forced to reward this failed industry with an enormous subsidy.

The EU no longer needs to grow its own food.

The world has no shortage for anyone anywhere with the money to pay for it, and that includes all of the EU, the more so after the price drops that would follow termination of the Cap.

Of course Ireland is happy to accept any EU gifts it can lay its hands on - who wouldn't be? But EU-wide, nothing comes close to the Cap in terms of confiscating its citizens' wealth.

And that is not to talk of the Third World livelihoods that the Cap destroys due to the subsidised dumping of surplus EU (and also US) agricultural products.

By all means let Ireland fight its corner to keep it hands on the EU money. But let's not pretend there is any logical, economic or moral merit behind it.

The money, or a fraction of it, would be far better spent on  retraining the EU's farmers and farm workers to learn new, marketable skills that customers actually value. - Yours, etc,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin


* http://assembly.coe.int/Documents/WorkingDocs/Doc03/EDOC9853.htm  
EU Parliamentary Assembly, "The costs of the Common Agricultural Policy", July 2003

** http://www.ips-dc.org/EUlessons/EUlessons.pdf 
Institute for Policy Studies, "Lessons of European Integration for the Americas", Feb 2004, p24

*** http://dynamic.rte.ie/av/2053415.smil  
Minute 7:46 - 8:30, in answer to the question "Is demise inevitable for the European Union?" 
Questions & Answers, RTE, June 20th 2005 (with Madame Editor on the panel)



Madam, - Tony Allwright (June 23rd) says that the "EU no longer needs to grow its own food". While this may be strictly true, for the EU to rely exclusively on imports from outside the Union would be an appalling move!

The Union is already at the whim of Middle Eastern sheikhs in terms of the cost and availability of oil. Imagine the same scenario with respect to our food. The €700 which the Cap is claimed to cost each EU family may be a small price to pay for food security.

Certainly the Cap needs restructuring and its costs need to be reduced. The ongoing review process is moving in the right direction and will help in reaching an equitable solution for farmers, consumers and the developing world alike. - Yours, etc,

NED DWYER, Pembroke Grove Passage West, Cork.

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Madam, - The New Zealand All Blacks' Haka is an ancient war dance handed down by the native Maoris, involving a lot of stamping, thigh-slapping, arm-waving, shouting and sticking out of tongues.

It is designed to give them courage for the contest ahead and to intimidate their opponents, and it generally achieves both aims - particularly, it would seem, against the latest British and Irish Lions.

But why do their opponents accord it any respect whatsoever? Why do they just stand and politely face the All Blacks as they do their girlie thing - or, in Brian O'Driscoll's case, throw some blades of grass in the air as a sign of warrior esteem? The Haka is nothing but a pre-match mind game, and an eminently successful one. But it works only because opposing teams choose to co-operate.

The All Blacks' opponents, since they don't have a comparable ceremony, really ought to play a mind game of their own. They should simply ignore the Haka, turn their backs, chat among themselves, giggle derisively at the dancers and generally dismiss the performance - all behaviour that the proud macho All Blacks would find supremely irritating. 

What an excellent state of mind for the Lions to start the next real battle
this Saturday!
- Yours, etc,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

See also blog post, Dissing the Haka

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Madam, - Dear oh dear, it must be a long time since Senator Brendan Ryan (B.E.) studied and practised his engineering. His view (July 13th) that engineering conclusions are invalid unless each and every application is first subjected to specific physical experimentation would put a halt to most construction activity worldwide. Imagine. No blocks of flats (we didn't test a life-size dummy block in a wind tunnel or earthquake simulator). No bridges (ditto). No Boeing 747 or Airbus 380 (test flights were phoney because the planes weren't full of passengers). No oil (because each oil-well ever drilled is unique and thus untested).

The days when design involved building things progressively stronger until they stopped breaking are long gone. The whole point of engineering is to apply to future constructions the existing knowledge of mathematics, of physics, of material properties, of dynamic behaviour and so forth. Further research and experimentation constantly take place to add to this body of knowledge where required and to foster innovation.

For Senator Ryan to suggest that building a high-pressure gas pipeline is somehow "entirely new and untested" is ludicrous. They are built incessantly across the industry and across the globe. There is a mountain of knowledge about how different steels react to pressure, temperature, chemicals, impact. Compared with other engineering challenges, pipeline design is easy.

It is just a shame that Shell appears unwilling to debate and defend its Mayo pipeline openly in the media, as this breeds suspicion in the public mind. But it is no evidence that the pipeline is unsafe. On the contrary, all the published information points to the conclusion that the risks meet the crucial criterion of ALARP, "as low as reasonably practicable", which was established after the North Sea oil platform Piper Alpha exploded in 1988. - Yours, etc,

Tony Allwright (B.E., M.Eng.Sc.), Killiney, Co Dublin.



Madam, - The letter from Tony Allwright (July 15th) on the Rossport gas pipeline was most reassuring. I presume he would have no objection to a 340-bar gas pipeline running through his garden, serving a huge refinery on Killiney Hill?

After all, both areas are similar in being populated, coastal and highly scenic. However, ground conditions in Killiney are much better, due to the absence of local landslides and unstable bogland.

Of course the pipeline is safe as far as Mr Allwright is concerned. Rossport is over 200 miles away. Does he take the people of Erris for fools? - Yours, etc,

RACHEL TUBRIDY, Carrowteige, Ballina, Co Mayo.



Madam, - Rachel Tubridy wants to know (July 21st) whether I'd like a high-pressure gas pipeline run through my garden. The answer is "Yes, please" - provided it meets the appropriate international safety standards and I receive the lucrative compensation being offered to others. - Yours, etc,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.



A chara, - Tony Allwright's attempt at a rebuke (July 26th) to Rachel Tubridy's earlier letter states that he would be agreeable to having a high-pressure gas pipeline going through his garden if it met the "appropriate international safety standards" and provided he received "lucrative compensation". Paradoxically this justifies the objections voiced by the Rossport five and the local community. Firstly there are no "appropriate international safety standards" to adhere to as the proposed pipeline which would bring unrefined gas on-shore is unprecedented. Mr Allwright's use of the word "lucrative" is telling, suggesting that he would accept infrastructure development only if he could profit from it. On the contrary the Rossport five have shown that they are not prepared to place a price on the health and safety of their families and local community. They have repeatedly stated that they would have no objections to a standard gas pipeline, with the gas being refined off shore - no price tag attached. - Is mise,

THOMAS McANDREW, Termon Abbey, Drogheda,Co Louth.

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EDUCATION: ARE POINTS THE POINT? - 24th September 2005

Madam, - Ruth Borland is to be heartily congratulated, and not only for obtaining maximum 600 points in her Leaving Certificate (Education Today, September 20th).

The real merit is that she set herself an extremely tough target and then single-mindedly took the action necessary to achieve it.

These are a lesson and an accomplishment that will serve her all her life and lead to great contentment. Whether she eventually wants to achieve greatness in science, the arts, the business world, motherhood, public service or all the above, she now indubitably has the tools to do so.

Too few of us know what we want out of life, and even fewer have the determination to achieve it. - Yours, etc,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

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DISMISSAL OF BRIAN KERR - 20th October 2005

Madam, - Disappointment, sadness, amazement and anger over Brian Kerr's dismissal as Ireland manager are disingenuous. He failed in his central task, which was to ensure Ireland would qualify for the World Cup. Anyone can manage a football team to failure, even me. Out of honour, he should have resigned immediately and not waited to be pushed. - Yours, etc,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin

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DISPUTE AT IRISH FERRIES - 30th November 2005

Madam, - In all the hot air generated over the Irish Ferries dispute, three points have been ignored.

Firstly, the 543 displaced Irish Ferries workers will instantly find new jobs in this full-employment economy, which is no doubt part of the reason 90 per cent of them have accepted Irish Ferries' redundancy payments. So there is no real suffering being incurred, albeit much inconvenience and annoyance.

Secondly, 543 central and east Europeans will obtain otherwise non-existent jobs that - compared with what is available to them back home - are well paid. This is a significant boost for people still emerging from the scourge of over four decades of socialism and we should rejoice at this opportunity.

Thirdly, unless Irish Ferries meets the competitive market by slashing its costs, in a couple of years' time it will have gone out of business and no one will have the jobs. Nor will the service exist. Where would Ryanair be without its low cost base?

By the way, those such as your correspondent Michael O'Leary (November 29th) who think the company should remove "Irish" from its name because it will no longer be subject to Irish employment law, are being ridiculous. By the same reasoning, we might as well remove the offending word from every iconic Irish pub all over the world.

No laws are being broken. It is time to move on and allow business to manage itself within applicable legislation. - Yours etc,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.


DISPUTE AT IRISH FERRIES - 2nd December 2005

Madam, - Tony Allwright (November 30th) castigates as "ridiculous" my suggestion that the brand name Irish Ferries might contravene trades description law (November 29th). Ridiculous no, tongue in cheek perhaps - though Mr Allwright, given his reference to Ryanair, may be confusing me with my namesake, whom of course I am not.

I am, however, the owner and chief executive of one of the country's largest recruitment firms and let me assure him that, notwithstanding a strong economy, 543 Irish Ferries employees will not "instantly find new jobs" and certainly not in the sector for which they have been trained and at the terms on which they have been compensated until now.

Whatever one's views about the merits of trade unions, employees are entitled to adequate protection from sudden loss of position and earnings, unfair management practice and hazards to health and safety. Most of this legislation is driven, ironically, by the EU, the very structure facilitating the Irish Ferries position.

Morally, what is the difference between this and an employer in Ireland turning around and firing long-serving employees simply because there is a younger or less expensive alternative? Why should there be a legal difference? - Yours, etc,

MICHAEL O'LEARY, Seapoint Avenue, Monkstown, Co Dublin.

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DEBATE ON SAME-SEX UNIONS - 2nd January 2006

Madam, - It is annoying when democracy risks preventing you from achieving what you want. That is why Owen Corrigan and Michael Keary (Letters, Dec 30th) object to Mike Heelan's suggestion (Dec 27th) for a referendum on introducing same-sex civil partnerships.

Evidently Messrs Corrigan and Keary simply don't trust their fellow-citizens, for they tell us that the opinion of the Irish people is "neither here nor there"; that sometimes the "will of the majority cannot, and should not, have any bearing on vitally important issues"; that "it is the State's duty to ensure equality", not the people's.

These totalitarian, anti-democratic views would be embraced by every thuggish dictator in the world, from Kim Jong ll to Saddam Hussein to Robert Mugabe to Fidel Castro, men not renowned for their friendliness to gays and lesbians.

As for the issue at hand, you can equally make the case that homosexuals are already as free as heterosexuals to marry the opposite sex, and that both groups are equally unfree to marry the same sex.

"Equality" is all a matter of determining what should be equal to what.

Much better to trust the Irish people's innate common sense, goodness and compassion in deciding whether to introduce same-sex civil partnerships, than to foist some agenda-driven solution because you fear a referendum's "wrong" outcome. - Yours, etc,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.



Madam, - Tony Allwright (January 2nd) refers to Fidel Castro among a group of what he describes as "thuggish dictators".

He is misinformed. Fidel Castro was last returned to parliament as an ordinary member by a majority of those who voted in his constituency on April 19th, 2003. He was subsequently elected to cabinet by a majority of the public representatives returned to parliament and thence elected as head of state.

Perhaps Mr Allwright would consider extending to the people of Cuba the same respect he asks for the people of Ireland to choose the laws that govern them? - Yours, etc,

S.P. MAC AONGHUSA, St Joseph's Cottages, Dublin 7.



Madam, - S.P. Mac Aonghusa takes me to task (January 5th) for calling Fidel Castro a thuggish dictator, because he "was last returned to parliament as an ordinary member by a majority of those who voted in his constituency on April 19th, 2003".

Actually he was one of 609 pro-government candidates who were elected (in January 2003, not April) by 97 per cent of Cuban voters. Not a single opposition candidate ran. This election was as credible as those which returned Stalin, Brezhnev et al in the Soviet Empire days.

Mr Castro has been in power for 46 continuous years, running a prison state whose citizens are forbidden to leave the country. He denies free speech, political opposition, and freedom of religion.

He has wrecked Cuba's economy (GDP $3,000 per capita), and has killed over 72,000 of his own people so far by executions, camps, and the deaths of refugees (boat people) trying to escape.

If this is not the behaviour of a thuggish dictator, what is? It is Mr Castro who disrespects the Cuban people, not I. If only it were possible to ask them. - Yours, etc,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

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SPREAD OF NUCLEAR ARMS - 2nd February 2006

Madam, - The nuclear non-proliferation treaty, the brainchild of Frank Aitken, "has since been ignored by Israel, India, Pakistan and, most recently, North Korea, all of which have developed such weapons", thunders Garret FitzGerald (Opinion & Analysis, January 28th).

But Israel, India and Pakistan have never signed the treaty, so why shouldn't they ignore it?

[*Thus] Contrary to Dr FitzGerald's complaint, they have never been guilty of "flagrant breaches", which is why such "breaches" could never have been brought before the UN Security Council, and why Western powers have had no legal basis for obstructing Israel's acquisition of nuclear capability.

Of his list, only North Korea actually signed the treaty, back in 1968, but formally withdrew in 2003. Iran also signed, also in 1968.

Thus Israel, India and Pakistan have broken no treaties or international laws. North Korea and Iran have. 

[*Mr FitzGerald should do his homework.  Wasn't he once a foreign minister as well as Taoiseach?]

- Yours, etc,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.


[*Deleted by Editor]


Details about the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty and its signatories were obtained from Wikipedia and the Federation of American Scientists

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CARTOONS OF MUHAMMAD - 10th February 2006

Madam, - "The cartoons are racist," declares David Manning (February 9th). Perhaps he would care to state what "race" he is talking about.

While we can pick and choose and chop and change our religious beliefs, each of us is stuck with his/her race, ethnicity, DNA. That is why lampooning someone's religion is acceptable, but ridiculing his/her race is not. - Yours, etc,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

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Madam, - Tom Cooney (Opinion & Analysis, February 14th) makes an eloquent case against breath-testing motorists on an utterly random, or "dragnet" basis, both in terms of civil liberties and of low catchment rates in other jurisdictions (eg one per 144,000 in Tennessee).

But he is disingenuous. Random should not mean - as he suggests - lying in wait for motoring mothers during the school run. Such an approach would obviously be pointless, and an indefensible infringement of civil liberties.

If random breath-testing is to deter motorists from drink-driving, it must be targeted. That means testing everyone leaving the pub and nightclub when they close. Until habits change, the catch rate will be a lot higher than one per 144,000; after they change a dramatic reduction in alcohol-related road deaths will follow. Whether pub- and club-related TDs would allow such targeting, and the damage it would do the trade, is another issue. - Yours, etc,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.


RANDOM BREATH-TESTING - 20th February 2006

Madam, - Tony Allwright (February 16th) is correct in suggesting that properly targeted random breath-testing will act as a deterrent.

The level of prosecutions for drink-driving shows that a significant number of motorists believe that they can currently drive a potentially lethal weapon, when over the legal alcohol limit, with little possibility of detection.

Regardless of civil liberties, I suggest that if such breath-testing succeeds in changing this mindset, any occasional inconvenience to innocent motorists will surely be considered worthwhile. - Yours, etc,

IAN A. SCOTT, Silchester Park, Glenageary, Co Dublin.

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Madam, - A largely overlooked reason to decry President McAleese's attendance at the recent Jeddah Economic Forum in Saudi Arabia is that shortly before the meeting, the two-person Danish delegation was disinvited in light of those notorious cartoons.

The decision was taken "to express solidarity with the feelings of anger sweeping the Muslim world as a result of slandering Prophet Muhammad in Danish newspapers," as Faycal Batawil, director general of public relations at Jeddah's Chamber of Commerce and Industry, proudly explained.

The President's attendance thus gave the appearance that she (along with other Western luminaries and leaders such as Cherie Blair, Al Gore, Steve Forbes and Gerhard Schroeder, who also attended) was more eager to appease a terrorist-sponsoring dictatorship rather than to show solidarity with a mild Scandinavian democracy and fellow EU member.

It is true that Amr Hassan Enany, chairman of the Jeddah Economic Forum, later claimed that "the two Danish speakers that were invited to speak apologised sincerely for not attending the forum. Their invitations were not revoked". But who believes that? - Yours, etc,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

Article to which this letter relates ... 
Events occurred by chance rather than contrivance
(about President McAleese's other recent gaffes) Irish Times, 24th February 2006

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CONTROVERSY OVER CARTOONS (again!) - 28th February 2006

Madam, - Just as Anka Jamayel (February 25th) objects to Martyn Turner's cartoon of February 21st, depicting Muslims apparently involved in mayhem outside some embassy, so I object to Muslims who engage in actual mayhem outside embassies, killing dozens of people in the process. I commend The Irish Times for its reportage of this.

It is not Mr Turner who is "presenting Arabs and Muslims as an ignorant mob", but the perpetrators themselves. - Yours, etc,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

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Madam, - Political philosophy lecturer Stephen J. Costello (March 9th) sternly warns us lesser mortals that the PDs' penchant for giving priority to the economy is a political ideology that is "repugnant to socialists, social democrats and classic conservatives". Giving priority to the economy means, of course, allowing people the freedom to pursue wealth within the law.

As such, there can be no greater accolade than being repugnant to socialists, the political heirs to Marx, Lenin and Mao, whose state-controlled redistributive ideology in the past century killed 100 million people, impoverished many more and wrecked vast swathes of the environment.

In so far as social democracy seeks a gradual transition from capitalism to socialism, albeit by democratic means, it too is hardly an ideology to be proud of. Its adherents' repugnance is thus to be welcomed.

As for classic conservatives, with their predominant goal of preserving the status quo, warts and all, any change is repugnant to them, even when it improves the lot of the people.

"Surely people come before profit in any civilised and humane society," concludes Dr Costello. But surely this translates into poverty (uncivilised and inhumane) coming before profit, because that's what you get when you constrain profit. Do we have to re-live the 20th century to relearn that? And anyway, what's actually wrong with law-abiding people creating wealth? Even political philosophy lecturers do that. - Yours, etc,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

PDs = Progressive Democrats



Madam, - Tony Allwright (March 10th) is simply wrong in his assertion that social democracy is some sort of gradual transition to real socialism.

It is a far more substantive philosophy than that.

All my life I have been proud to describe myself as a social democrat.

I am as opposed to the tyranny and intolerance so often applied by some so-called socialists as I am to the misery and inherent antagonism towards real democracy so often the result of unbridled capitalism.

Social democracy, in theory and practice, offers a value-filled, people-centred, pragmatic approach to the problems and opportunities facing our society. No second-rate philosophy there. - Yours, etc,

Cllr DERMOT LACEY, Beech Hill Drive, Donnybrook, Dublin 4.

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Madam, - So Prof Brendan Drumm [chief executive of the Health Service] does not want us to know how many hospital patients are dying from MRSA and which hospitals have the highest MRSA mortality rates, because it might frighten us? Has he forgotten that fright is a vital defensive instinct, which keeps millions of people and other animals alive every day? Personally, if I knew which hospital had the most MRSA deaths, fright might well save my life as I would seek to go elsewhere. Prof Drumm should stop patronising us. - Yours, etc,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin

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Madam, - Malcolm Thompson, President of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers' Association, tells us that farmers' "subsidies (currently in their death throes) were introduced to complement the existence of a cheap food policy which has been sustained over a number of years" (April 7th).

Where did he get this idea from? The Common Agricultural Policy was introduced solely to encourage agriculture by guaranteeing to buy farmers' produce at elevated prices whether there was a market or not. This has had the effect of increasing, not decreasing, food prices to consumers, which is why cheaper imports from the developing world have had to be kept out of the EU. Thus the Cap, by rewarding uneconomic farmers, punishes consumers through higher taxes and higher food prices, and third world farmers by denying them access to rich EU markets. American agricultural subsidies do the same.  

There are simply too many farmers and farms in the Western world. [They need to restructure, downsize and compete on the global marketplace like any other developed industry] - Yours, etc,  

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

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Madam, - The "concelebration" of Mass by four Catholic and Church of Ireland priests in Drogheda was shocking and a sham.  [Front page, April 18th]

Catholics believe that the Mass's consecration transubstantiates water [oops, I meant bread] and wine into the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ; Protestants believe these only symbolise the flesh and blood. Therein lies the essence of the irreconcilable difference between the faiths. Shared prayers are one thing, shared transubstantiation quite another.

For a consecration to have been "joint" and to have had any meaning, at least one of the priests had to have been denying his faith, which made him an apostate.

Fathers, which of you was it? I am calling on your personal honesty and integrity. - Yours, etc,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.


Madam, - The real scandal that the Drogheda Eucharist has highlighted is the continuing disunity within Christianity and for that the priests involved deserve our gratitude. Tony Allwright (April 21st) believes that "at least one of the priests had to have been denying his faith, which made him an apostate". Such language is more appropriate to the era of the Inquisition.

In actual fact he has it totally wrong when he declares solemnly that there are "irreconcilable differences between the faiths" as regards the Eucharist. He adds that that Catholics "believe that the Mass's consecration transubstantiates water and wine [presumably he means bread and wine
- yes I do!] into the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ; Protestants believe that these only symbolise the flesh and blood".

I refer Mr Allwright to the 1971 Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission statement,elucidated in 1979, which clearly stated: "We have reached agreement on essential points of Eucharistic Doctrine". The members of this high-level commission were all official appointees of both the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches.

The real scandal is that we still await the imprimatur of the Vatican to this document. We all should be demanding real and meaningful action by the Churches on the restoration of unity when there evidently is no further irreconcilable differences on the essential doctrinal meaning of the Eucharist between the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches.

The unity of the church is both signified and brought about by the celebration of the Eucharist and we owe a debt to all the ministers involved at Drogheda for bringing unity among Christians another step forward. - Yours, etc,

BRENDAN BUTLER, Malahide, Co Dublin.

For more on this, see below

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Madam, - What a wonderful civic example Michael Ahern sets (April 27th).

He declares that he is happy if the cut in his taxes promised by the PDs "be given to the most vulnerable members of society" such as disadvantaged elderly people and children.

Therein lies a political opportunity for the PDs to augment their tax-cutting promise in a manner that would please voters of every political persuasion. They should set up a special fund into which each citizen who objects to his/her particular tax cut can funnel it. The fund would then be applied to good causes such as those outlined by Mr Ahern.

Individual taxpayers would have the freedom to decide whether to keep their tax cuts or recycle them for the betterment of society. - Yours, etc,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

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Madam, - Rev David Fraser, who from the context of his hysterical letter of May 31st is not a Roman Catholic, begins by asserting, without evidence, that "most ordinary, decent Roman Catholics are appalled at the way in which Fr Iggy O'Donovan and the other two Augustinian priests have been bullied by Rome and conservative Catholic forces over the Easter Eucharist at Drogheda."

I am a Roman Catholic who considers himself "ordinary and decent" and I heartily welcome the apology of the three Augustinian priests for the now infamous Drogheda Mass, and commend their firm resolve not to repeat their error.

Just like a golf club, the Roman Catholic church has certain rules which you have to obey if you wish to remain a member. Belief in transubstantiation is one of them, and is the defining doctrinal difference between Catholics and Protestants. The Augustinian trio made a mistake but then recanted. Well done.

As for Rev Fraser´s extraordinary statement that "morality has changed", he should perhaps expand. Is non-marital sex no longer immoral because more people do it? How about robbery and murder? Are they also no longer immoral for the same reason? Have the Ten Commandments been rewritten? The Roman Catholic church has always ruled that certain behaviours - which include the aforementioned - are intrinsically and seriously wrong. As such they are classed as mortal sins which, without repentance, guarantee a place in hell.

Moreover people in a state of mortal sin have always been barred from receiving Holy Communion because it actually is, and does not merely represent, the body of Jesus Christ.

Rev Fraser´s thinly disguised proselytising for converts from Roman Catholicism is fair game. The world needs more Christian proselytising. But the Roman Catholic Church's enforcement of well-known strictures is entirely defensible, the more so since any of us can turn our backs on the church if we so wish. It has no unwilling practitioners. - Yours, etc,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin

To be properly understood, this letter needs to be viewed as one in three five; click here


Madam, - Tony Allwright (June 2nd) accuses Rev David Fraser (May 31st) of being "hysterical" when he said most Catholics were appalled at the way Fr Iggy O'Donovan and his colleagues were bullied into making an apology for the Easter Mass in Drogheda. Mr Allwright is delighted that an apology was extracted from these men. The Catholic Church, is like a golf club where the rules must be kept, he asserts.

He further challenges Rev Fraser for his comment that "morality has changed" and asks: "Is non-marital sex no longer immoral because more people do it? How about robbery and murder?" Mr Allwright's golf club - oops, church - may have a rule about non-marital sex, but that does not mean that non-marital sex is immoral, only that it breaks the rules of his church/club. [This answers my question - what was once considered immoral Mr Kelly no longer regards as immoral.  In other words, morality in Mr Kelly's view is not an absolute] To speak of non-marital sex as if it were comparable to to robbery or murder is as hysterical as anything of which he accuses Rev Fraser. How can consensual sex have anything in common with robbery or murder?

It is noteworthy, too, that Mr Allwright first thought of something sexual (and a benign act at that) when wishing to condemn an act as irretrievably immoral: robbery and murder came second and third on his list. [Selected only because Rev Fraser condemned withdrawal of Holy Communion from cohabitees; the other two extend the logic] This must be Catholicism at its best! Mr Allwright should know that even golf clubs are sometimes forced to change their rules. Blacks were not allowed to play at Augusta a few years ago. Clubs that bar women from membership, such as Portmarnock, will not get away with it for too much longer. - Yours, etc.,

DECLAN KELLY, Davis Court, Christchurch, Dublin 8.

Madam, - A few weeks ago my husband and I and many others attended the baptism of our grandnephew. Present were Catholics, Protestants, atheists and agnostics. To some was a sacrament, to others a naming ceremony, to all a welcoming party for the baby and I am sure to none a cause of confusion. So I can't see what harm could have come from the celebration of a sacrament in Drogheda by Protestants and Catholics.  [The issue is CONcelebration, not celebration]

I take issue with Tony Allwright when he writes that the Catholic Church "has no unwilling practitioners".

I "consented" to be a Catholic when I was one day old and the catechism was beaten into me in school. So I was an unwilling practitioner for many years - and I was far from alone. [My use of the present tense was deliberate]

He is right, of course, when he writes: "Just like a golf club, the RC Church has certain rules which you have to obey if you want to remain a member".

Yes indeed, like golf clubs the church has full member privileges for male members, restricted membership for females and the right to leave the club.[Touché!] - Yours, etc,

MARY McELENEY, Rochestown Avenue, Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin.

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Madam, - As Senator Brendan Ryan well knows when he refers to "the murder of innocent civilians, many of them children" (July 15th), murder is the deliberate, premeditated unlawful killing of another human being. Israel has not "murdered" any civilians.

The civilians killed in the Israeli retaliation against Gaza and Lebanon for the respective invasions by Hamas and Hizbullah were not targeted by Israel.

Israel aims to hit only military targets and infrastructure that helps the military. Civilians have never been targeted, but they are killed collaterally, and often because Islamicist fighters purposely choose to hide and fight from among civilians, or pretend to be civilians.

Islamicist fighters (including Palestinians), on the other hand, deliberately and openly target Israeli civilians, in schools, shops, restaurants, nightclubs, buses, etc, with no military target in sight.

The death statistics for the period October 2000 to December 2003 show this up: for every Palestinian combatant killed by Israelis, 0.7 non-combatants were killed. For every Israeli combatant killed, 3.6 non-combatants were killed. - Yours etc,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.


A Chara, - Tony Allwright (July 18th) may feel sure he knows what I "well know" about the definition of murder. But on this occasion he'll have to review his certainties both about me and about murder because we cleared this up in Ireland and the UK years ago. The Provos planted many bombs aimed at military or infrastuctural targets. In many cases, because of the Provos' ineptitude and/or reckless indifference, civilians (including children) were killed. I called those killings murder and the perpetrators, when they were caught, were charged with and convicted of murder.

Clearly in our law and in British law you don't have to set out deliberately to target children to be guilty of murder. But of course Tony Allwright acknowledges that. Murder is murder when the killing is "deliberate, premeditated [and] unlawful " .

Israel, like the Provos, uses military force deliberately and with premeditation when it targets the home of someone whom they regard as a legitimate target, or the vehicle in which they are travelling, or the building in which they have a room, or indeed the region (Southern Beirut) in which they are presumed to live. And when innocent civilians are killed along with the "legitimate" target, then for me that's murder, just like it was when the Provos did it.

But then perhaps Tony Allwright believes that Israeli attacks on Gaza and Lebanon are not "unlawful" while the activities of Hizbollah and Hamas are. He might explain that to those of us who can call murder (by any side) by its proper name. He might explain how the 30-year Israeli occupation is not unlawful and why the ruthless expansion of settlements is not unlawful either. And while he's at it he might help us to see how the detention without trial of close to 1,000 Palestinians is also not unlawful. No doubt the decision of the agents of Israel to drive a bulldozer over Rachel Corrie was "not unlawful" either. - Is mise,

Senator BRENDAN RYAN, Seanad Éireann, Dublin 2.

You can find my unpublished reply to the Senator here.

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CRISIS IN THE MIDDLE EAST (2) - 2nd August 2006

Madam, - Amid all the cries that Israel's response to Hizbullah's terrorist invasion and rocket attacks has been "disproportionate", no one has come up with a formula that is "proportionate", including your Editorial of August 1st.

It seems to me that Israel's "proportionate" response would be either to turn the other cheek to Hizbullah's unprovoked attacks (and thus invite more), or to lob a few desultory missiles much as President Clinton did in 1998 after al-Qaeda, without provocation, bombed American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. (And by now we all know how well this deterred al-Qaeda from further attacks on America).

The issue in Lebanon is that you are forced to back either Israel or Hizbullah in their quests for victory over the other; there is no middle ground. - Yours, etc,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

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THE RECORD OF CASTRO'S CUBA - 17th August 2006

Madam, - In defending Fidel Castro's Cuba, and its healthcare, from Newton Emerson's satire of August 10th, Suzie Murray tells us that "several aspects of the Cuban state leave room for improvement" (August 14th).

Would that include the 73,000 people killed[*] by the Cuban state over the period 1959-1987, according to frequent Nobel Peace Prize nominee Prof R.J. Rummel, the noted expert on democide (the killing of people by their government), and God knows how many others since then? Not a great advertisment for Cuban "healthcare". - Yours, etc,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

[*]Reference: R J Rummel, Statistics of Democide: Genocide and Mass Murder since 1900
http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/NOTE5.HTM#TAB , Table 15.1B
http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/SOD.TAB15.1B.GIF , Line 848 of Table 15.1B

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'POACHING' OF ACADEMIC STAFF - 1st September 2006

Madam, - In deriding the desire of UCD's president, Dr Hugh Brady, to maintain a competitive market for the expertise of academics, Dr Peadar Kirby of DCU tells us that "most academics, in my experience, do not view their expertise as a commodity to be possessed for private profit but as knowledge to be shared with colleagues and students" (Letters, August 31st).

To test this, let Dr Kirby answer one question: provided he could continue to share his knowledge with colleagues and students, would he be willing to have his remuneration halved? Only if the answer is yes can one conclude that he indeed views his expertise as being unworthy of private profit for himself.

One could, indeed, conclude that Dr Kirby is simply fearful of international competitive pressure in academia, and it is interesting that he expressed wariness of globalisation in Prof Joseph Stiglitz's recent lecture "Making Globalisation Work" (Finance, August 31st).

Every educator deserves his/her financial reward and it would be unjust to deny, through a cartel, better rewards to better educators. - Yours, etc,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

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POWER AND EQUALITY - 11th September 2006

Madam, - Vincent Browne attempts to place himself on the high moral ground by complaining that the lack of "equality" in Irish society is evidence of "corruption", and advocating that "State power" be exercised to redress this (Opinion, September 6th). His piece reveals, however, that what he is actually after is not equality of opportunity for all, but the use of state power to enforce equality of outcome for all regardless of effort or ability.

Where is the fairness in that? Lenin and Mao would be proud. - Yours, etc. 

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

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Madam, - Joe Murray, co-ordinator of the NGO Afri (October 11th), repeats known untruths about Shell.

Ken Saro Wiwa and eight colleagues were arrested and - after a rigged trial - executed in 1995 by Nigeria's brutal military dictatorship of the day, not for "trying to protect their people and land" [ from Shell], but for inciting the murder of four elders from their own Ogoni tribe who did not agree with their (largely anti-Shell) activities. Shell had no hand in their fate, and was horrified by it. To suggest collusion is, quite simply, a grievous calumny.

The Irish legal system jailed the Rossport Five for contempt of an injunction to stop interfering with Shell's lawful construction activities; Shell did not call for their imprisonment, only for the exercise of the injunction.

Moreover, numerous expert studies have all concluded that the Corrib pipeline is not "dangerous", no matter that the protesters may think it is. (I may think the world is flat, but that doesn't make it so.)

The valiant gardaí at Ballinaboy are protecting not Shell but the democratic law of the land, which is their constitutional duty. And by the way, it is clear from TV pictures that they are using the absolute minimum of force to do so.

Shell's commitment to human rights, especially in Nigeria, is huge. If Mr Murray thinks Shell "has never been known to allow human rights to stand in the way of its pursuit of profit", perhaps I should explain why Shell's oil production in Nigeria, which was once 1.2 million barrels per day, is currently only 700,000. The half-million shortfall arises because Shell has voluntarily shut down dozens of its Nigerian oilfields attacked or threatened by militants, rather than risk violence by calling on the (lawful) protection of the security forces, for fear they will use lethal means. Shell's concern for the human rights of Nigerians is causing a large loss of profit for its shareholders.

Shell's activities do not lead to the wanton loss of life in Nigeria; neither will they in this country. - Yours, etc,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

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CALL FOR BOYCOTT ON ISRAEL - 20th October 2006

Madam, - It supporting the 60 Irish academics passionately calling for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions, Cathal Kerrigan ( October 17th) cites the example of his friend Simon Nkoli, a black gay South African who, shamefully, was tortured and imprisoned for his anti-apartheid activities .  The boycott will supposedly help the Palestinians toward peace. 

The irony is that pretty much the only place in the Middle East where a black gay such as Mr Nkoli can today live openly and at peace, without fear of attack or prejudice, is the hated Israel, and certainly not the areas known as Palestine.  In fact, Israel outlaws discrimination on the basis of race or sexual orientation.  It is odd, therefore, for Mr Kerrigan to favour Palestine. 
Incidentally, I am still awaiting a response to a challenge I twice posed in these pages on 6th and 13th October 2004 to "name a Middle East state other than Israel ... with the freedom to establish bodies which are openly ... pro-gay". 
Moreover, there is another way to create peace - instantly - in Palestine and surrounding areas.  Israel's neighbours have simply to cease attacking Israel. That's all it takes. Unfortunately, it won't work the other way round, as has been tried many times. - Yours etc,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

Note: This is second time publication of the sentiment expressed in the deleted words
has been withheld by the Editor


My letter provoked a bizarre response from Mr Kerrigan on 24th October, putting words I didn't say into my mouth.  I don't think he would have written this way had my letter not been censored as above.

CALL FOR BOYCOTT ON ISRAEL - 24th October 2006

Madam, - I am astonished by Tony Allwright's view of human rights as some kind of trading game (September 20th). His suggestion that, as Israeli laws respect gay rights, this should somehow blind a gay person to their flagrant abuse of the rights of others (eg Palestinians, Bedouin) displays a shockingly consumerist approach to an issue of principle.

By analogy, this attitude could be used to argue that, as the Irish Government has put in place progressive legislation ensuring me legal equality as a gay person, I should therefore remain silent about human rights abuses they may commit with regard to travellers or foreign nationals, for example.

I am confident that my fellow gays, and your readers, will reject such shallow thinking.

However, Mr Allwright's view does reflect an attitude I have encountered among Israelis - namely, that they are different from their neighbours, that they are "civilised", European. I have seen this reflected at the most ridiculous level in the pride they take in their country's participation in the Eurovision Song Contest, which they see as clear political endorsement by Europeans of the state of Israel and its repressive policies.

It is for this reason that I wish to propose - in all seriousness - that any boycott of Israel should include a ban on its participation in the Eurovision Song Contest in May 2007.

Finally, I would like to bring to Tony Allwright's attention something Senator David Norris said in the Civil Partnership Bill debate (March 16th, 2005): "Daniel O'Connell. . .made the point that. . .human rights and dignity were not a finite resource, which were diminished by being handed out to other people; rather, they were enhanced and multiplied the more people in the country had such advantages." - Yours, etc,

CATHAL KERRIGAN, Strawberry Hill, Cork.

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PINOCHET AND CASTRO - 21st December 2006

Madam, - The denunciation, by Amnesty International's Sean Love, of Augusto Pinochet's 17-year reign of terror, which killed or "disappeared" over 3,000 people and imprisoned and tortured many more, is admirable (December 19th). 

I would hope he reserves even greater vituperation for Fidel Castro who in his 47 years of power has killed 70,000 people(*) so far in his prison state, jailed and tortured many more and wrecked Cuba's economy.  At least Pinochet's capitalistic policies left Chile the strongest economy in South America. - Yours etc

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

(*) Source of the 70,000 figure is Professor J Rummel's tabulation entitled Lesser Murdering States, Quasi-States, and Groups - Estimates, Sources and Calculations, Go to Line 848; the actual figure is 73,000.

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Madam, - The various letter-writers in recent days decrying Saddam's execution hate to face up to some simple facts.

Iraq - despite the mayhem caused by a small minority - is a constitutional democracy, whose constitution was ratified by the people in 2005, and whose current democratic government is the result of an election just over a year ago in which no fewer than 12 million Iraqis - an astonishing 74 per cent[*] of the country's adults - voted in the face of daunting intimidation. Would that peaceful Europe or America could boast such a turnout.

Moreover, despite the flaws in Saddam's trial, both the prosecution and defence were able to put forward their cases in the full glare of TV. You would be hard put to find another court process in the Middle East which was as open and fair. By contrast, those who think the much vaunted International Criminal Court should have tried him should reflect that it couldn't even keep Slobodan Milosevic alive for his trial.

The result of Saddam's trial was a conviction and hanging. Who are we to arrogantly proclaim that those millions of brave Iraqi voters are wrong, or that they are not competent or worthy of dealing with their own criminals in accordance with their own constitutional law? - Yours, etc,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

[*]According to the CIA, there are 16,152,978 Iraqis over the age of 14 years.  12m is 74% of this.  In fact since the voting age is 18 not 15, the actual percentage is even higher than 74%.

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KRAUTHAMMER'S VIEW OF IRAQ - 8th February 2007

Madam, - Because Charles Krauthammer supports the freeing of Iraq from Saddam Hussein, Alan Barwise asks (February 7th): "Why does The Irish Times persist in publishing Mr Krauthammer's articles?"

For the same reason, I suggest, that it publishes a letter from Mr Barwise, who patronisingly believes Iraqis are not ready for freedom and deserve only authoritarian rule, such as that of the late Saddam Hussein whose ousting he seems to regret.

A freedom-lover and a freedom-denier. You are right to provide opposing arguments and let your readers decide. - Yours, etc,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

KRAUTHAMMER'S WORLD VIEW- 15th February 2007

Madam, - Tony Allwright (February 8th) castigates me for suggesting the Iraqis are not ready for (Western) freedom. Interestingly, Charles Krauthammer's column of February 5th concedes the very point in his final two sentences - about the only aspect on which I agreed with him.

David Leach (February 12th) seriously misquotes my letter of February 7th at two points. I deliberately used the phrase "for the time being. . . authoritarian rule". The phrase "totalitarian dictatorship" is his own. Nor did I, or would I, call the Iraqis backward.

I suggest that one key distinction between authoritarian rule and totalitarian dictatorship is that the more responsible authoritarian rulers are committed to evolving a democratic process. Totalitarian dictators are not. Pakistan's General Musharraf may be one of the former. Ataturk's successor in Turkey, Ismet Inonu, certainly was.

I would gently challenge Mr Allwright and Mr Leach to answer two questions: Why has no Arab country to date evolved a democratic process recognisable in Western terms? Why has the the US-UK introduction of "freedom" to Iraq degenerated into a seemingly unstoppable civil war that cost over 30,000 Iraqi lives in 2006 alone? - Yours, etc,

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Madam, - "I know of nobody in Washington that is planning military action on Iran. . . There is, as far as I know, no planning going on to make an attack on Iran." So says Tony Blair (World News, February 23rd).

He must be playing with words, wilfully ignorant or else blatantly lying. For it is inconceivable that the Pentagon and/or the CIA (in Virginia not "Washington") are not even making contingency plans for an attack on Iran.

It would be a dereliction of duty. Mr Blair would have been truthful had he merely asserted that no decision about such an attack has been made.

A recent EU document, written by the staff of Javier Solana, the EU foreign policy chief, leads to a conclusion that Iran may need only two more years to produce its first crude nuclear bomb, which happens to be the time remaining to Mr Bush.

Rightly or wrongly, there is every chance that, failing diplomatic progress, Mr Bush - who has indicated in the past that he doesn't want to leave the Iran problem to his successor - will launch an attack on Iran's suspected nuclear sites. With Democrats in control of Congress and the Senate, with his own poll ratings in the doldrums and facing no re-election, he personally has nothing to lose (even if his party does). - Yours, etc,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

27th February 2007

Madam, - Tony Allwright is right (February 26th) to repudiate Tony Blair's claim that Washington is not planning an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, but he is wrong to suppose that such an attack is justified on any reasonable basis.
[I didn't say this!]

We have seen from the invasion of Iraq that US military action has been disastrous in terms of the resultant mayhem and the numbers of Iraqi people dead.

While the proliferation of nuclear weapons cannot be allowed, the US strategy of so-called preventive action is equally unacceptable. The Middle East is far too explosive an area for Washington to be allowed to further exercise its unilateral muscle to further its own military strategy. - Yours, etc,

BRENDAN BUTLER, NGO Peace Alliance, Phibsborough Road, Dublin 7.


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Madam, - For maximum impact, Trócaire's Lenten campaign against gender inequality should highlight where by far the most egregious inequalities against females are perpetrated:

(a) throughout the billion-strong Islamic world (where the Koran mandates discrimination)

(b) in the selective abortion of millions of female babies across China (with its one-child policy) and India.

Trócaire should then describe how it intends to spend the money collected to attempt to redress these abuses. Properly focused, this is a truly worthy cause. - Yours, etc,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.


Madam, - Tony Allwright (March 6th) may be right to say that today's Islamic world has at least its fair share of gender discrimination, but to attribute that phenomenon to Islam and the Koran is much too simple.

Prof Bernard Lewis, arguably the most distinguished present-day Western scholar of Islam, makes it clear in his book The Middle East (page 210 in my edition) that the coming of Islam brought an enormous improvement to the position of women in Arabia.

Not only did they gain a degree of protection from ill-treatment by their husbands or owners, but the killing of female infants, sanctioned by custom in pre-Islamic Arabia, was outlawed. Women also gained property and other rights which had not previously existed.

The position of women subsequently worsened when the original message of Islam lost its power and was changed under the influence of pre-existing attitudes. - Yours, etc,

ALAN BARWISE, Dalkey, Co Dublin.

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Madam, - In quoting Ian Paisley jnr's anti-gay remarks, you used dots to indicate that some words had been left out.  According to the BBC, the omitted words were That doesn’t mean to say that I hate them, meaning homosexuals. Since this changes the whole tone of the what he said, your omission was dishonest.

Mr Paisley said in effect that he hates not gays but what they do, which is a perfectly respectable position to take. There's nothing reprehensible in disliking other people's actions.

His belief that gays can free themselves from being gay, however, demonstrates profound ignorance rather than homophobia. - Yours, etc,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

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Madam, - In placing the blame for debt in the developing world entirely on the lenders, with not a word of censure for the illegitimate regimes which actually took out the borrowings, Nessa Ní Chasaide, co-ordinator of Debt and Development Coalition Ireland (June 8th), refers casually to "the members of the undemocratic G8 club".

Other than perhaps Russia, these are not only the most successful big countries on earth in terms of providing the best for their people, but also totally democratic, and these two characteristics are not unrelated.

The more that left-wing groups continue to excuse and tolerate developing world tyrannies, the more the latter will be encouraged to take on debts they will never be able to repay.

Democracy, not debt relief, is what will lift the developing world out of poverty. - Yours, etc,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.


Madam, - Tony Allwright (June 11th) castigates people of a leftward leaning for their alleged tolerance of tyrannical regimes in the developing world. The fact is that the majority of these regimes are propped up by the West to maintain the continued exploitation of their countries' natural resources. This exploitation mostly is carried out through dubious contracts between the regimes and unscrupulous multinationals, facilitated by Western banks and supported indirectly by our so-called democratic Western governments.

An obvious example is Nigeria, which under the previous military dictatorships negotiated the exploitation of its oil wealth by Shell and others. The result is that in what should be one of the most prosperous of countries there is abject poverty and the country is constantly teetering on the brink of civil war. - Yours, etc,

BARRY WALSH, Church Road, Blackrock, Cork.

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Madam, - On Wednesday night, the eve of the Twelfth, several monumental pyres of tyres were set on fire in Northern Ireland as part of the annual celebrations of the Orange community.

From the photographs of just one of these massive cones in Co Antrim, you can count the tyres involved and from this estimate the cone's base diameter (23 metres), height (15 metres), volume (2,077 cubic metres) and weight (224 tonnes). Allowing for steel reinforcement and other materials, some 70 percent of this weight would be more or less pure carbon - ie 156 tonnes - which when burnt would have spewed into the night air 575 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

According to the CarbonNeutral Company, a flight from Belfast to New York produces 0.6 tonnes of CO2 per passenger. Thus, the environmental damage caused by that one celebratory bonfire was the equivalent of flying 958 people to America, or about three aircraft.

Who would have thought that Orangemen could be so, er, un-Green? - Yours, etc,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

This letter is based on my blog post, Ungreen Orangery

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ROMA ON THE M50 ROUNDABOUT- 25th July 2007

Madam, - It is strange that among the many who demand the Irish Government provide the Roma camping out on the M50 Roundabout with shelter and food, none seemed to have opened up their own homes to take them in. Isn't charity supposed to begin at home? When was it completely outsourced to the State? - Yours, etc,

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SHANNON'S ROLE IN IRAQ WAR - 1st August 2007

Madam, - How shocking that Green Party luminaries including former MEP Patricia McKenna (July 31st) should hold the United Nations in such evident disdain that they wish Ireland to cease co-operating with the implementation of one of its most prominent resolutions. They similarly have such little regard for one of the Arab world's few constitutional democracies that they likewise would wish to impede its legitimate Government's desire for foreign assistance in trying to bring security to its beleaguered people.

The multinational force in Iraq, led by the Americans, is operating in accordance with last November's UN Resolution 1723, valid until the end of this year, which the Security Council approved unanimously at the request of the Iraqi prime minister.

Furthermore, critics should remind themselves that it is insurgents and jihadists, not the Americans, who are doing their best to kill innocent Iraqi children, women and men. The multinational forces are trying to protect them, in light of the 72[*] per cent of Iraqi adults who voted in December 2005 - in the face of enormous intimidation - for a new, democratic Iraq.

Ireland should be proud of its small contribution in making Shannon available to the brave American soldiers as they try to help the Iraqis. Ms McKenna and her cohorts should be ashamed of their obstructionism and the additional loss of Iraqi life this could entail were they successful in thwarting the Americans. - Yours, etc,

[*]According to the CIA, there are 16,651,180 Iraqis over the age of 14 years. 
The 12m who voted represent 72% of this. 
In fact since the voting age is 18 not 15, the actual percentage is even higher than 72%.


Madam, - Tony Allwright (August 1st) professes to be proud that Ireland "is making Shannon available to the brave American soldiers as they try to help the Iraqis". Mr Allwright is an example of that weird sector of Irish society that equates being "pro-American" with a readiness to endorse the worst excesses of a US administration which has long since lost credibility with its own people.

He must surely be aware that citizens of the US have turned en masse against the occupation of Iraq. Furthermore, Americans are usually aghast when I tell them that Ireland - despite its international image and recent experience of the futility of violence - is currently lending a hand to the lunatic adventurism of President Bush.

The immorality of Ireland's stance has rightly been castigated by Archbishop Neill, as it should be by all people of conscience. - Yours, etc,

(Fr) DECLAN DEANE, All Saints Parish, Hayward, California, USA.

Madam, - Tony Allwright finds it "shocking" that a group of Green Party members, in their criticism of the military use of Shannon by the Bush regime in its illegal war on Iraq (July 31st), "hold the United Nations in such evident disdain" and "have such little regard for one of the Arab world's few constitutional democracies".

Mr Allwright speaks of this "constitutional democracy" as if it were a long-established, fully functioning one. He also points out that "the multinational force in Iraq, led by the Americans, is operating in accordance with last November's UN resolution 1723."

Memories have grown short: it seems necessary to remind supporters of the Bush regime, such as Mr Allwright, that the UN was the very same institution so flagrantly ignored and sidelined by the US in its illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003, which amounted to an act of aggression, defined by international law as "the use of force by one state against another, not justified by self-defence or other legally recognised exceptions".

Mr Allwright continues by saying that "critics should remind themselves that it is insurgents and jihadists, not the Americans, who are doing their best to kill innocent Iraqi children, women and men". Supporters of the Bush regime should remind themselves that American and UN sanctions and enforcement of "no-fly zones" have claimed the lives of men, women and in particular, children. In a recent study Unicef found that between 1991 and 1998, 500,000 Iraqi children above the expected death rate died from the effects of UN- and American-enforced sanctions. The then US ambassador to the UN, Madeline Albright, commented that "the price is worth it".

Mr Allwright blindly asserts that "Ireland should be proud of its small contribution in making Shannon available to the brave American soldiers as they try to help the Iraqis". It is not with pride that future history books will record our actions, but calamity and shame for colluding with the US in its illegal war, a war which it is losing. If there is any pride to be felt, it is by former MEP Patricia McKenna and her colleagues for taking a stand against the military use of Shannon by the Bush regime. - Yours, etc,

MARTIN J. NOONE, Donaghmore, Navan, Co Meath.


Madam, - In their attack on my views, your correspondents Fr Declan Deane and Martin Noone seem to have thrown logic out of the window (Letters, August 3rd).   

Firstly, if the original invasion of Iraq was illegal and immoral because it did not have UN support, then the current war is legal and moral because it is scrupulously in line with a UN mandate, Resolution 1723.  They cannot have it both ways. 

Secondly, even if (which I would deny) additional Iraqi civilian deaths were the result of the pre-war America-enforced UN no-fly zones and sanctions, rather than of Saddam's non-compliance with the numerous mandatory UN resolutions which prompted them, where's the relevance?  That phase is long over.  America today is attempting, however ineptly, to protect innocent Iraqi civilians against insurgents and jihadists.  Why would your correspondents, and for that matter Archbishop Neill, Patricia McKenna and other Greens feel this is somehow wrong?   They seem to prefer that the insurgents and jihadists prevail. 

Thirdly, Mr Noone dismisses Iraq as a constitutional democracy merely because it is new and struggling.  How is this an argument for abandoning it?  If the war is too difficult to win, as many Americans and others now seem to believe, then by all means run away, emulating America in Vietnam and the USSR in Afghanistan.  But don't pretend that what US and other Coalition forces are doing today in Iraq is not in a noble cause.  - Yours etc,


Madam, - Tony Allwright (August 4th) berates those who call for an end to the misuse of Shannon to aid the US fiasco in Iraq. He cites as justification the 72 per cent of Iraqis who voted for a constitutional democracy.

A poll carried out by the Washington Post in September 2006 showed 73 per cent of Iraqis saying they would feel safer if the US and other foreign troops left Iraq; 65 per cent favoured an immediate withdrawal. A poll published last week by World Public Opinion shows that these figures remain the same. A notable addition is that nearly half those polled favour attacks on US troops.

How many more people have to die before the Bush apologists are convinced?

There will not be a constitutional democracy in Iraq. There will be an Islamic state aligned with Iran. That is the reward for this ill-considered exercise in futility. - Yours, etc,

LARRY WHITE, Mooncoin, Co Kilkenny.

See the full exchange on this subject here

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Madam, - Instead of incessantly bleating that "Government", in the best traditions of a Communist state, should solve its Shannon-Heathrow problem, Tony Kinnane (October 5th), Chairman of the Shannon Action Group, should actually take some, er, action.

He and his colleagues are all businessmen so they should know something about business. Aer Lingus has gone: nothing is going to change that. So get one or more competitors in. That's what businessmen do when faced with a supply shortage. Find competitors that can offer lucrative connectivity via Heathrow, Amsterdam, Paris, Frankfurt. Incentivise them with offers they can't refuse.

Make them squabble and compete among themselves for the riches to be had from the Shannon connectivity that the western business seaboard says it needs so desperately and is willing to pay for. Make Aer Lingus rue its decision.

The Shannon story to date is a testament to a local business community grown lazy and complacent over the years through decades of hand-outs and market distortions (particularly the infamous stop-over) imposed on long-suffering Irish taxpayers for no return. It needs to start taking some dynamic responsibility for its own future. - Yours, etc,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

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Madam, - As the millionth brave American soldier passes through Shannon, you can almost taste the despair in Brendan Butler's letter (October 17th) prompted by some rare positive tidings from Iraq, namely that al-Qaeda seems to be on the retreat (World News, October 16th).

Harking back to George Bush's (in)famous visit in 2003 to an aircraft carrier which flew a banner saying "Mission Accomplished", he writes as if he fervently hopes that the latest good news will be similarly confounded, infrastructure further destroyed, civilian deaths continue, the war remain unwinnable.

It seems strange to yearn for failure in a difficult yet honourable venture by the multinational force led by the US, which - at the behest of the legitimate, constitutional, democratic government of Iraq - fights under a unanimous mandate from the United Nations Security Council under Resolution 1723. - Yours, etc,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.


Madam, - Tony Allwright (October 18th) sneers at doubters of the US claims of having broken al-Qaeda in Iraq. Aren't such claims rather strange, though, when one considers that there was no al-Qaeda in Iraq prior to the illegal invasion?.

The US has broken, not al-Qaeda in Iraq, but the lives of millions of Iraqis, and now Iraq itself. If this was its goal, then we must accept its claims of success!

- Yours, etc,

GERRY MOLLOY, Collins Avenue, Whitehall, Dublin 9.

When you have no coherent answer, just answer stuff that wasn't said.  My point was that it is wrong to wish for failure of a UN-endorsed mission.

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Madam, - Both Prof Joe Barry and Dr Declan Bedford call for the lowering of the blood-alcohol level to below the current 0.8 mg per 100 ml (Letters, November 1st), in the belief that this will reduce road deaths. 

Yet no-one has ever produced any evidence that reducing this figure to the Continental level of 0.5 has any beneficial effect. 

In the case of the very few bits of research that would appear to support such a contention, lowering the limit has been accompanied by much enhanced enforcement. 

It is the latter that makes the difference. 

Elsewhere you report that Since random breath testing was introduced in July last year there has been a 20 per cent reduction in deaths on Irish roads [Ireland, November 1st].

Moreover, media reports of road deaths caused by alcohol almost always quote drivers as being "several times over" the limit, not marginally so. 

Not until Gardaí are prepared, with their breathalysers, to systematically ambush drivers in large numbers as they drive away from pubs, clubs and restaurants late at night across the country will there be an appreciable reduction in drink-driving and its associated casualties. 

Of course, this will also deal a mortal blow to many such establishments by frightening away customers and create outrage among a large swathe of drivers who vote. 

That's why it is so much easier to make a gesture like reducing the current blood-alcohol level.  It sounds good but achieves nothing and doesn't much scare the vintners or anyone else. - Yours, etc,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

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Madam, - At first, I was as aghast as everyone else at Bertie Ahern's self-awarded 14 per cent increase, bringing his annual salary to an eye-popping €310,000. But then I asked myself what were the most important deliverables of any government to its people. They are first security, then prosperity. By contrast, the rest is either details or trivia.

In terms of security, Ireland over Mr Ahern's decade has neither been invaded nor suffered terrorist attack. And though the crime rate has risen, it still stands comparison with other countries.

As for prosperity, the Celtic Tiger has been flying for a decade, outstripping nearly everyone in Europe and elsewhere. Across the world it has become a model to be emulated. Its economic boom and feel-good factor are everywhere to be seen and felt. And for this, surely Mr Ahern and his ministers can claim a modicum of credit and deserve some reward. They have helped shape the environment and conditions that fostered the extraordinary growth.

So although Mr Ahern's new salary makes him better paid than any other executive leader in the developed world, it should be linked to the GDP-per-person that he has delivered, as this is a very good indicator of the population's average income, the one thing most of us care most about. And on this comparison, he is not greedy at all.

He collects 10 times Ireland's GDP per person, which is comparable to Australia's John Howard. But Gordon Brown, Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy are each paid 12 times their respective GDP figures.

At the top end of the scale is Singapore's Lee Hsien Loong, who is paid a whopping 60 times. And at the bottom? George Bush with a factor of only nine.

So maybe we shouldn't be griping about Bertie's rise after all. Because he's worth it. - Yours, etc,

TONY ALLWRIGHT (not a member of Fianna Fáil), Killiney, Co Dublin.

This letter, the figures it contains and the sources of those figures,
are derived from my contemporaneous post,
Bertie: Because He's Worth It.

- 10th November 2007

Madam, - I have heard a few tongue-in-cheek stories in my time, but never one so downright odd as that from Tony (not in FF) Allwright. So, as we haven't been invaded on his watch, Bertie & Co should be given their additional rewards.

By that regard the Swiss federal PM should do very well indeed. - Yours, etc,

BRIAN M. LUCEY, Sallins Bridge, Kildare.

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Madam, - Raymond Deane of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign once again attempts to portray Israel's self-defence actions, such as the separation barrier, as unwarranted acts of aggression (November 19th). And, typically, he refuses to address the issue in David M. Abrahamson's letter of November 14th, to which he purports to be responding.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict could be resolved at a stroke. The Palestinians merely have to stop attacking Israel, which would immediately open the way to constructive negotiations. Unfortunately, as we have so often seen, it won't work the other way round.

Anyone who advocates or defends continued attacks by Palestinians on Israel cannot also want a peaceful, just outcome. - Yours, etc,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

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PAY RISES FOR STATE CEOs - 11th January 2008

Madam, - So chief executives of commercial State bodies are to get "significant increases" because a consultant says their pay is 14 to 20 per cent behind the average in the private sector (The Irish Times, January 9th).

But this observation is valueless unless accompanied by statistics showing that CEOs are fleeing State enterprises to join the private sector. They are not; and I would suspect that is simply because in their present jobs they are cosily protected from the rigours of shareholder ruthlessness. Fourteen to 20 per cent sounds like a reasonable trade-off to me. - Yours, etc,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

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Madam, - It is not a factual error that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has threatened to wipe Israel from the map (April 25th).

This threat has been widely reported, including by Al Jazeera (eg http://tinyurl.com/36yv6c), since he uttered it to 4,000 students on Wednesday October 16th 2005 at a conference in Tehran entitled The World without Zionism.

If it were a mistranslation from Farsi, as Coilín Ó hAiseadha suggests, Mr Ahmadinejad has had over two years to make a correction, not to mention those 4,000 students. He has not, and neither have they.

 - Yours, etc,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney, Co Dublin.

Note: Coilín Ó hAiseadha's comment referenced my column of 23rd April, CND still on the march to nowhere

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Mapping Dublin's future - 31st August 2010

Madam, – Aris Venetikidis’s new maps of public transport in Dublin are absolutely brilliant! (“Capital idea imagines new way forward”, Home News, August 30th). But isn’t it extraordinary that it takes a foreigner to come up with such an idea, rather than Dublin Bus and Iarnród Éireann, given that such maps have long existed for cities all over the world. After all, senior officials love making junkets, sorry, fact-finding missions, to other countries.

Hopefully, the next step for downtrodden public bus commuters will be a timetable at every bus stop for that particular bus stop, so you know how long you will have to wait, when to expect the first/last bus and so forth. This is standard fare all over mainland Europe (and in fairness for the Dart) and pretty simple to implement. – Yours, etc,

Note: The maps are available for download

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Constitutional convention - 13th July 2012

Sir, – With the ignominious repeal only last month of Canada’s so-called “Section 13”, its notorious censorship and hate-speech statute which provided for secret courts lacking proper rules of evidence while administering pernicious life-time punishments, a statute which was the bedrock of the country’s Human Rights Commission, I am astonished that Martin G Padgett of Toronto even admits he was a member of that commission (April 10th). Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms is in fact a charter which tells Canadians what they are allowed to do. As such it is an anti-freedom charter: in a free society, citizens can do anything they like except what is proscribed in law, not the other way round.

When it comes to a new Irish constitution, the lesson from Canada is to avoid its example like the plague. – Yours, etc,

TONY ALLWRIGHT, Killiney Heath, Killiney, Co Dublin.

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 What I've recently
been reading

The Lemon Tree, by Sandy Tol, 2006
“The Lemon Tree”, by Sandy Tol (2006),
is a delightful novel-style history of modern Israel and Palestine told through the eyes of a thoughtful protagonist from either side, with a household lemon tree as their unifying theme.

But it's not entirely honest in its subtle pro-Palestinian bias, and therefore needs to be read in conjunction with an antidote, such as
The Case for Israel, Alan Dershowitz, 2004

See detailed review


Drowning in Oil - Macondo Blowout
examines events which led to BP's 2010 Macondo blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. 

BP's ambitious CEO John Browne expanded BP through adventurous acquisitions, aggressive offshore exploration, and relentless cost-reduction that trumped everything else, even safety and long-term technical sustainability.  

Thus mistakes accumulated, leading to terrifying and deadly accidents in refineries, pipelines and offshore operations, and business disaster in Russia.  

The Macondo blowout was but an inevitable outcome of a BP culture that had become poisonous and incompetent. 

However the book is gravely compromised by a litany of over 40 technical and stupid errors that display the author's ignorance and carelessness. 

It would be better to wait for the second (properly edited) edition before buying. 

As for BP, only a wholesale rebuilding of a new, professional, ethical culture will prevent further such tragedies and the eventual destruction of a once mighty corporation with a long and generally honourable history.

Note: I wrote my own reports on Macondo
May, June, and July 2010


Published in April 2010; banned in Singapore

A horrific account of:


how the death penalty is administered and, er, executed in Singapore,


the corruption of Singapore's legal system, and


Singapore's enthusiastic embrace of Burma's drug-fuelled military dictatorship

More details on my blog here.


Product Details
This is nonagenarian Alistair Urquhart’s incredible story of survival in the Far East during World War II.

After recounting a childhood of convention and simple pleasures in working-class Aberdeen, Mr Urquhart is conscripted within days of Chamberlain declaring war on Germany in 1939.

From then until the Japanese are deservedly nuked into surrendering six years later, Mr Urquhart’s tale is one of first discomfort but then following the fall of Singapore of ever-increasing, unmitigated horror. 

After a wretched journey Eastward, he finds himself part of Singapore’s big but useless garrison.

Taken prisoner when Singapore falls in 1941, he is, successively,


part of a death march to Thailand,


a slave labourer on the Siam/Burma railway (one man died for every sleeper laid),


regularly beaten and tortured,


racked by starvation, gaping ulcers and disease including cholera,


a slave labourer stevedoring at Singapore’s docks,


shipped to Japan in a stinking, closed, airless hold with 900 other sick and dying men,


torpedoed by the Americans and left drifting alone for five days before being picked up,


a slave-labourer in Nagasaki until blessed liberation thanks to the Americans’ “Fat Boy” atomic bomb.

Chronically ill, distraught and traumatised on return to Aberdeen yet disdained by the British Army, he slowly reconstructs a life.  Only in his late 80s is he able finally to recount his dreadful experiences in this unputdownable book.

There are very few first-person eye-witness accounts of the the horrors of Japanese brutality during WW2. As such this book is an invaluable historical document.


Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies
Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies

This is a rattling good tale of the web of corruption within which the American president and his cronies operate. It's written by blogger Michele Malkin who, because she's both a woman and half-Asian, is curiously immune to the charges of racism and sexism this book would provoke if written by a typical Republican WASP.

With 75 page of notes to back up - in best blogger tradition - every shocking and in most cases money-grubbing allegation, she excoriates one Obama crony after another, starting with the incumbent himself and his equally tricky wife. 

Joe Biden, Rahm Emmanuel, Valerie Jarett, Tim Geithner, Lawrence Summers, Steven Rattner, both Clintons, Chris Dodd: they all star as crooks in this venomous but credible book. 

ACORN, Mr Obama's favourite community organising outfit, is also exposed for the crooked vote-rigging machine it is.


This much trumpeted sequel to Freakonomics is a bit of disappointment. 

It is really just a collation of amusing little tales about surprising human (and occasionally animal) behaviour and situations.  For example:


Drunk walking kills more people per kilometer than drunk driving.


People aren't really altruistic - they always expect a return of some sort for good deeds.


Child seats are a waste of money as they are no safer for children than adult seatbelts.


Though doctors have known for centuries they must wash their hands to avoid spreading infection, they still often fail to do so. 


Monkeys can be taught to use washers as cash to buy tit-bits - and even sex.

The book has no real message other than don't be surprised how humans sometimes behave and try to look for simple rather than complex solutions.

And with a final anecdote (monkeys, cash and sex), the book suddenly just stops dead in its tracks.  Weird.


False Economy: A Surprising Economic History of the World
A remarkable, coherent attempt by Financial Times economist Alan Beattie to understand and explain world history through the prism of economics. 

It's chapters are organised around provocative questions such as


Why does asparagus come from Peru?


Why are pandas so useless?


Why are oil and diamonds more trouble than they are worth?


Why doesn't Africa grow cocaine?

It's central thesis is that economic development continues to be impeded in different countries for different historical reasons, even when the original rationale for those impediments no longer obtains.  For instance:


Argentina protects its now largely foreign landowners (eg George Soros)


Russia its military-owned businesses, such as counterfeit DVDs


The US its cotton industry comprising only 1% of GDP and 2% of its workforce

The author writes in a very chatty, light-hearted matter which makes the book easy to digest. 

However it would benefit from a few charts to illustrate some of the many quantitative points put forward, as well as sub-chaptering every few pages to provide natural break-points for the reader. 


Burmese Outpost, by Anthony Irwin
This is a thrilling book of derring-do behind enemy lines in the jungles of north-east Burma in 1942-44 during the Japanese occupation.

The author was a member of Britain's V Force, a forerunner of the SAS. Its remit was to harass Japanese lines of command, patrol their occupied territory, carryout sabotage and provide intelligence, with the overall objective of keeping the enemy out of India.   

Irwin is admirably yet brutally frank, in his descriptions of deathly battles with the Japs, his execution of a prisoner, dodging falling bags of rice dropped by the RAF, or collapsing in floods of tears through accumulated stress, fear and loneliness. 

He also provides some fascinating insights into the mentality of Japanese soldiery and why it failed against the flexibility and devolved authority of the British. 

The book amounts to a  very human and exhilarating tale.

Oh, and Irwin describes the death in 1943 of his colleague my uncle, Major PF Brennan.


Other books here

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