and Published [P!]
Letters to the
Press in 2006
letters and cybercomments in other years, click on
or 2012 or
the Irish Times on 27th December 2006
Madam, - Minister Seamus Brennan is right to emphasis the importance of
integrating immigrants into Irish society and that the responsibility for
this lies equally with both the native population and the incomers (Ireland,
But he is wrong to raise the spectre of what is now widely regarded as the
French initifada, with its hundred car-burnings per night, year round. This
is an Islamic phenomenon provoked and sustained by Islamic extremists among
immigrants, who have created no-go areas in the banlieus where only Sharia
law, implemented by imams, prevails and more moderate Muslims have to keep
their heads down.
The obvious way to forestall such an outcome here is to restrict Muslim
immigration. - Yours etc
Back to index
the Irish Times on 21st December 2006
Pinochet and Castro P!
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
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
of the 70,000 figure is Professor J Rummel's tabulation entitled
Murdering States, Quasi-States, and Groups - Estimates, Sources and
Go to Line 848; the actual figure is 73,000.
Back to index
the (subscription-only) Economist, 19th December 2006
A Bird's Tale P!
“Only in English is my home country named after poultry. Its
proper name is Turkiye, meaning the land of the Turks,”
says Naile Berna Kovuk (Letters,
November 30th). He's got it back-to-front. It is the poultry of that
name which is named after his country.
Long before Europeans
discovered America, English merchants in Turkey
the çulluk, a most delicious bird
to eat and exported . They began exporting
it back to England, where it became very popular, and was known as a ‘Turkey
bird’ or simply a ‘turkey’. Then, when the
English came to America, they noticed large edible birds which looked like
big versions of çulluks, so they called them ‘turkey’ also, which has stuck
to this day.
there are odd names for a turkey in other languages as well,
where the bird always seems to have come from somewhere else. In Turkey
itself it is known as hindi (meaning from India);
in France dinde (also from India);
in Italy tacchino (peacock) or pollo d'India (India again);
in Brazil it's peru; in Greece gallapoula (French
girl); in Arabic an Ethiopian bird ;
in Persian it's buchalamun (a chameleon). And in India, it's a turkey.
My original letter is shown with the
editor's deletions. As published, my letter is sandwiched between
two others on the same subject, which roughly cover the points deleted.
letter is based on a post I wrote in October 2004 entitled
A very similar letter
published in Mark Steyn's Mailbox during
Christmas week 2006, ranked 14th on the list
(down from third and
first place over the past year or so!).
Re: Talking turkey
CULLED TURKEY P!
You've got the turkey's etymology wrong. You write that "The
bird that supplanted the bustard was introduced to Europe early in the 16th
century by one of Sebastian Cabot's men who brought it from ... Mexico".
In fact, long before
Europeans discovered America, English merchants in Turkey had discovered the
çulluk, a most delicious bird to eat. They began exporting it back to
England, where it became very popular, and was known as a “Turkey bird” or
simply a “turkey”. Then, when the English came to America, they noticed
large edible birds which looked like big versions of çulluks, so they called
them “turkey” also, which has stuck to this day.
Yet there are odd
names for a turkey in other languages as well, where the bird always seems
to have come from somewhere else. In Turkey itself it is known as hindi
(meaning from India); in France dinde (also from India); in Italy tacchino
(peacock) or pollo d'India (India again); in Brazil and Portugal it's peru;
in Greece gallapoula (French girl); in Arabic an Ethiopian bird; in Persian
it's buchalamun (a chameleon). And in India, it's a turkey.
By the way, the
December 19th issue of the Economist seems to agree with my version.
Back to index
To the Irish Times on 1st December 2006
Madam, - You don't have to pay €120 for your own (clunky)
breathalyser as John
Mugan suggests (Letters,
December 14th). Over the internet, you can buy from the UK a
tiny one that fits neatly in the palm of your hand or your top pocket or
purse for only £21 (around €40 including delivery to Ireland). It is more
than accurate enough for determining whether you are well within the legal
limit, and is ideal for carrying with you at all times. Without your own
device, it is like trying to keep to the speed limit without a speedometer.
Moreover, for little cost, pubs, clubs and restaurants could fit
breathalysers (also available over the internet), to enable customers to
measure themselves. In Australia, such machines have long been widespread
and provide an additional revenue stream. - Yours etc,
This letter is drawn from a
Yourself Before Drink Driving”,
which I wrote in November 2006
Back to index
To the Irish Times on 1st December 2006
the Palestinians: Disputed vs Occupied Land
Madam, - I don't know where Raymond Deane of the Ireland
Palestine Solidarity Campaign keeps getting the idea that the land disputed
with Israel is not
It remains under dispute for the sole reason that every
time the Palestinians have been offered it as a Palestinian state their
leaders have turned it down - in 1937, 1948, 1967 and 2000. As such, it is
no more Palestinian land than it is Israeli land.
You can therefore as readily conclude it is "occupied" by
the Palestinians as by the Israelis. - Yours, etc.
Back to index
To The Economist, 1st December 2006
The Americans' Lawful Mission
Sir, - Your leader (The
test in Afghanistan, November 25th) contains a glaring and
uncharacteristic error, which reads,
“In Afghanistan, as distinct from Iraq, there should be no
quarrel about the lawfulness of the mission. NATO is in the country under a
UN mandate, operating in defence and at the behest of an elected government”.
So is the American-led coalition in Iraq. - Yours etc,
Back to index
To the Irish Times on 28th November 2006
Rumsfeld's Unknown Unknowns
Madam, - Frank Golden betrays himself when he joins the
chorus that likes to mock what he calls Donald Rumsfeld's
November 28th). When Mr Rumsfeld uttered this in June 2002, his central
point was that in war you need at least to allow for the existence of bad
things happening that you haven't thought of.
But the same concept applies in many business contexts as
well. For example, the oil industry talks about :
|known reserves (oil that they know is there and how
|unknown reserves (oil that they know is there but
don't know how much) and |
|undiscovered oil (oil that they don't know is there
but from experience may be there if they look hard enough). |
Inasmuch as an oil company's long-term future depends on
continually finding new oil - hence oil exploration - it is essential that
how to deal with undiscovered oil (“unknown
in Mr Rumsfeld's lexicon) should constitute a strong element in strategic
Furthermore, no responsible company will fail to have
plans in place for tackling other unknown unknowns such as future
undreamt-of business catastrophes.
It seems that many people listening to Mr Rumsfeld were
hearing about the concept of different types of knowns and unknowns for the
first time, were finding it complex (it is) and couldn't understand it.
Therefore, they would conclude, it must be something bad and deserving of
mockery. - Yours etc,
This letter is drawn from a
wrote back in August 2002.
Back to index
To the Irish Times on 23rd November 2006
Death Penalty on Saddam Hussein
Madam, - Anthony Redmond quotes the Vatican in support of
his contention that Saddam Hussein should be spared the death penalty (Letters,
November 23rd). The Vatican, in its inexplicable endeavours to keep the
in power, has no credibility in this matter and should be ignored. Who can
photo of the late Pope disgracefully shaking the bloodied hand of Tariq
Aziz, Saddam's deputy, just before the invasion? Even today, Cardinal Renato
Martino seems to continue to regret Saddam's removal.
As for the trial itself, whatever its flaws, both the
prosecution and defence were able to put their cases in open court and a
guilty verdict on the Dujail massacre was reached, which no-one could claim
is unjust. Iraqis tried an Iraqi in Iraq for crimes against Iraqis. This was
in marked contrast to the fiasco of a trial of Slobodan Milosevic at the
International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague. This dragged on for four long
years, without an outcome, and then Milosevic died - the court couldn't even
keep him alive.
As for the death sentence, the court acted under the
auspices of the sovereign Iraqi government freely elected last December by
an astonishing 77%** of the adult population, pursuant to a constitution
ratified by the Iraqi people two months earlier. The Coalition forces are
not, as Mr Redmond infers, undermining Iraq's sovereignty; they are helping
to support the struggling young democracy at the invitation of the
legitimate government and under a UN Mandate.
I agree that the judicial death penalty is wrong and
abhor its liberal use in places like China, Saudi Arabia and the USA, but at
least it seems to be applied sparingly in Iraq. If and when Saddam is
hanged, it is to be hoped his body is cremated and his ashes secretly
scattered, to ensure no
shrine is created. - Yours etc,
12.4m votes /
16.2m over 15s = 77%
To the Sunday Times on 22nd November 2006
Richard Dawkins Confronted
Sir, - So, professional atheist Professor
Richard Dawkins wants to flood schools with atheism propaganda (“Godless
Dawkins challenges schools”,
He perpetually gets away with his special
kind of agitprop because he is charming, mellifluous and articulate, and
fits in well with the modern, post-Christian leftishness much beloved of the
bien-pensants. Meanwhile, his interlocutors, whether by accident or design,
are nearly always either in awe of his views and professorial demeanour or
else ridiculously deferential. Even Jeremy Paxman seemed slightly
intimidated when he
interviewed him on BBC Newsnight recently**.
Last month, however, Prof Dawkins
encountered, for perhaps the first time, a thoroughly aggressive yet
knowledgeable debater, journalist David Quinn, who systematically demolished
everything he had to say and made his arguments look ridiculous. He needs
more challenge like this.
Readers can listen to the radio interview as
from Minute 8, by clicking on
http://www.rte.ie/radio1/thetubridyshow/1109112.html. - Yours etc,
To the Irish Times on 13th November 2006
Madam, - In Mary Fitzgerald's interesting review of the new Al Jazeera
English TV channel (“Al-Jazeera's
energy lost in translation”,
November 16th), she contrasts it with the
Fox News and the
“sombre, earnest and careful”
BBC. Why does she omit the epithet
from the BBC's description, being its most abiding characteristic? - Yours
To the Irish Times on 13th November 2006
Contribution to Iraq
Madam, - I would hope that when Roger Cole, chair of the
Peace and Neutrality Alliance,
“makes an issue”
in the next general election of the use of Shannon Airport (Letters,
November 13th), he spares a thought for the twelve million Iraqis (an
74% of adults) who only last December bravely voted for a new, liberal,
legitimate, democratic Iraq, and who so proudly displayed their purpled
fingers to the cameras.
For ranged against them are a deadly minority of Saddamites, Ba'athists,
Sunni and Shi'ite gangs, local and foreign jihadists, common criminals and
no doubt various hangers-on and dead-enders. They seek to restore Ba'athism
or to impose Taliban-like rule, with, of course, power in their own hands
alone - and permanently. Only the West's military help, at the continuing
invitation of the democratic Iraqi government and under a UN mandate, is
keeping these these evil men from success. Shannon is a noble part of that
To withdraw support from those twelve million Iraqi democrats would be
the equivalent of handing post-war Germany back to the criminal Nazis or
Eastern Europe back to the criminal Soviets. - Yours etc,
See my earlier
attempt to get a similar letter published
the Sunday Times on 12th November 2006
India Knight has misread the main issue
surrounding the murder of a child by its parent (Murderously
self-pitying fathers, News Review, November 5th 2005).
A killer father such as Gavin Hall may indeed see himself as a victim,
but society, the media and the courts do not, and there is no compunction in
locking him up for the vile crime he has committed. In Hall’s case that
means life, and one might expect that the Greek courts will hand down
something similar to John Hogan, who
jumped off a balcony with his children in his arms, resulting in his
By contrast, when the
killer is the mother, she elicits only sympathy from the same troika for the
“tragic circumstances” that drove her to the deed and she usually ,
to all intents and purposes, gets off.
For example, Danielle Wails, who burnt her son to death
(what a horrible way to die)
apparently to win back his father,
recently got off with a three-year community order because
she was suffering post-natal depression.
A Bangladeshi woman, Musammat Mumtahana,
hanged her two baby sons yet because she then hanged herself it's called
rather than the foul double murder it was. Sharon Grace
(estranged from her husband)
drowned her two little
daughters and herself in Wexford. This too was not called a foul
double-murder, but a “tragic
drowning” with - to boot -
blaming social services.
There are other recent examples of
society's different attitude to killer-parents depending on their sex.
It's as if, within the UK and Ireland
at any rate, when Mummy's the murderess, we couldn't care less about the
dead little innocents.
Deletions from my original text were
made by the letters editor.
(Note in particular that it's apparently ok
to criticise English and Irish mothers
but not Bangladeshi ones.)
The letter is based on my recent post
Your Own Children”.
To the Irish Times on 3rd November 2006
The Dingle Plebiscite
Madam, - Peter Pallas of Ennis finds it “inexcusable”
that the native people of An Daingean/Dingle voted to retain the name of
November 3rd). Such arrogance. Those townspeople think they own the
place. They should obey the desires of their betters in Ennis, Leinster
House and the rest of the country. - Yours etc,
This refers to the fact that the
Irish Government recently decided to change the name of Dingle to the
Irish version, An Daingean, removing all reference to Dingle from maps,
The locals are furious.
To the Irish Times on 1st November 2006
Anti-War Movement Seems Pro-War
Madam, - You report that the Irish Anti-War Movement has invited to
Ireland Ibrahim Mousawi, who is "a prominent member of Hizbullah ... from
the pro-Hizbullah television station al-Manar" (World,
November 1st). According to Mr Mousawi, Hizbullah will welcome Irish
troops so long as they stick to their mission, which he says is "to help the
Lebanese army to defend the Lebanese people". However, UNIFIL's remit under
UN Resolutions 425, 426 and last August's 1701, is much more specific than
this. UNIFIL is
mandated to assist the Lebanese Government and Army to disarm all other
groups south of the Litani river, which of course includes Hizbullah. So Mr
Mousawi is, in effect, saying that the Irish troops are not welcome if they
do their UN mandated duty.
This is the same Hizbullah who provoked the recent war in Lebanon by
invading Israel, killing and kidnapping its soldiers and launching rockets
into its civilian areas. In addition to Hizbullah's social side, it is a
military organization openly committed to the
obliteration of Israel and is supported, militarily, logistically and
financially by Iran whose president likewise openly seeks to wipe Israel
from the map.
In its obvious support for Mr Mousawi and hence Hizbullah, the "Irish
Anti-War Movement" should rename itself. It appears not to be anti-war at
all, but pro-war on the anti-Israel side. - Yours etc,
To the Irish Times on 20th October 2006
- Your striking
front page photograph on October 20th features a veiled person
“Aishah Azmi (24), a Muslim teaching assistant”.
How do you know? - Yours, etc,
Published in the Irish Times on 20th October 2006
Call for Boycott on Israel
Madam, - In 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
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
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
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,
This is the second time in a month
the sentiment expressed in the deleted words
has been withheld by the Editor
See also Academics
Call for Ban on Israel below
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.
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
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.
Back to index
the Irish Times on 14th October 2006
Protests of Mayo Pipeline P!
Madam, - Joe Murray, co-ordinator of the NGO
Afri (October 11th)
repeats known untruths
about Shell .
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
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 pipeline is not "dangerous", no matter whether the protestors 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 the 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
Shell's activities do not lead to the wanton
loss of life in Nigeria ; neither will they in this country. - Yours etc,
Declaration of interest:
I worked for Shell from 1970 to 2000,
but Shell had no involvement with or knowledge
of this letter.
It is entirely my personal view.
To the Irish Times on 25th September 2006
Court Ruling on Transfusion
Madam, - The courts have ruled, in the case
of the Jehovah's Witness who was forcibly given a blood transfusion contrary
to her religion and her will, that religious beliefs must now be ridden over
roughshod, for the sake of the health of the patient, even where the subject
is a fully compos mentis adult.
This is excellent news, because if it applies
to an adult it must surely apply to minors. From this moment on, therefore,
all (but medically necessary) circumcisions of boys and girls below the age
of eighteen should be proscribed. Religion is no longer a defence for the
centuries old barbarity of wantonly chopping bits off babies and children.
Hospitals and back-street circumcisers beware. - Yours etc,
The story is outlined
To the Sunday Times on 20th September 2006
Resigning a Commission
Sir, - That's a nice letter from Major Philip Sturtivant
explaining that he left the army
“when the Iraq war was imminent”
because he thought it was
in the military folly of Afghanistan, September 17th).
I am sure his colleagues who did not quit and bravely went
to fight in Iraq would agree that this was no reflection on the Major's
courage in the face of war. - Yours etc,
To the Irish Times on 16th September 2006
Academics Call for Ban on Israel
Madam, - No fewer than sixty eminent
academics have used your Letters page (September
16th) to call for a
moratorium on joint collaborations with Israeli
academic institutions, which they evidently hope will encourage Israel to
make peace with its neighbours.
There is another way to create peace,
instantly. Israel's neighbours have simply to cease attacking Israel. That's
all it takes. - Yours etc,
Call for Boycott on Israel above
the Irish Times on 11th September 2006
Power and Equality P!
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.
Vincent Browne is a regular columnist and broadcaster
Published in Mark Steyn's Mailbox
on 5th September 2006, as third on the list.
However this link will degrade in a week or so when
Mark publishes a fresh set of letters on the same URL.
Load of Old Goebbels P!
You must be delighted with Phillip Adams'
spirited demolition of you in
The Australian of August 22nd 2006 ("Boom, boom"). After all
the adulation, I imagine it was the highlight of your antipodean tour to be
called mad and likened to Goebbels.
But as always with critics of the war on terror, Mr Adams is unable to
articulate any rational alternatives (what the hell is his "calibrated
policy"?). He will only tell you – with ardent passion – what you're doing
wrong. This is a common affliction of the depraved Left. The passion, that
Because the Left's underlying socialist ideology makes no sense and has been
such a demonstrable failure – for example, Mao and Stalin not only ravaged
their country's economies but killed 100m people between them – passion is
the only thing they can hold up proudly.
By contrast the dullards of the Right don't need passion because they can
rely overwhelmingly on simple logic. For example, it is logical that
• if you give people the freedom to improve themselves, that is what they
will generally do;
• if you give them the freedom to chose their own leaders, they'll generally
select ones who have their constituents' best interests in mind;
• if everyone has such freedoms, then society as a whole will improve;
• if you enforce people's property rights and contracts, and protect them
from crime, they will be even better able to improve themselves;
• if you provide rewards for particular behaviour, you will get more of it,
whether it is desirable (think of low taxes and hard work) or less desirable
(such as welfare payments for long-term unemployment);
• if you provide services or benefits completely free of charge and without
regard to their costs (eg medical, schooling, subsidies), you will get
unlimited demand and unlimited complaint.
Thus it is very difficult for the Left to
develop a coherent basis for countering policies that are guided by such
flights of reason. That is why they must resort, with heartfelt emotion, to
waffly arguments such as what is “fair”, what is “compassionate”, what is
“hurtful”, the implication being that everything of the Right represents the
heartless side of these adjectives.
Mr Adams merely reinforces all the anti-Left
prejudices I laid out in an earlier piece called "The
Passionate Left and Logical Right". Do please keep driving them nuts in
your inimitable style! Your comedy on top of the logic is just too much for
them to bear.
Published in the Irish Times on 1st September 2006
'Poaching' of Academic
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,
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,
Every educator deserves his/her financial reward and it
would be unjust to deny, through a cartel, better rewards to better
educators. - Yours, etc,
Dr Brady's remark which attracted the
To the Irish Times, 25th August 2006
Madam, - There is no doubting the heartfelt
sincerity of Quakers in their pacifism, which as Gillian Armstrong points
out in her
letter of August 25th has, over the centuries, sometimes resulted in
their being imprisoned for their rejection of arms and conscription.
But they should recognize that their
pacifism is respected and tolerated only in free societies such as ours here
in the West, and that such freedom has been bought and maintained only at
the expense of guns and/or blood. How else were the totalitarian,
militaristic and atheistic ideologies of Nazism and Soviet Communism, that
strove to sweep Europe, to be vanquished, and for that matter Japanese
imperialism? And how else will the march of radical Islam be kept at bay?
Quakers are effectively free-loading on
the military efforts of others, though they are not alone in this. - Yours etc,
This letter is based on my post
Free-loading Quaker Pacifists
To the Irish Times, 24th August 2006
the Roots of Terror
Madam, - Paul Carroll attempts to show that
the wickedness of radical Islam, as evidenced by the behaviour of people
such as suicide bombers, is matched by the wickedness of Judaism and
Christianity because Israel and America drop bombs which kill civilians (Letters,
He misses two central points.
Radical Islamists target civilians and
rejoice when they succeed; Israel, America and Britain target military
objectives and regret when civilians are killed. There is yawning chasm
between the morality of these two intents.
More importantly, the central figure of Islam
urges (in Suras 2:187 and 9:5) Muslims to
[non-Muslims] wherever ye shall find them”,
with the result that radical Islam can argue that it is merely obeying this
call. By contrast, the central figure of Christianity never killed anyone
and never advocated killing anyone. Neither does Judaism advocate killing.
Mr Carroll can blame Messrs Olmert, Bush and
Blair for the mayhem and deaths in Lebanon and Iraq if he wishes. But there
is no basis for placing the blame on their respective religions, whatever
they themselves may say to the contrary. - Yours etc,
Suras 2:187 and 9:5 from the Koran tell
[non-Muslims] wherever ye shall find them”;
Sura 9:29 says something similar.
These three verses may be found
To the Irish Times, 23rd August 2006
Jaw-Jaw vs War-War
Madam, - So,
“History has shown that, in the end, conflicts can only be
solved on a deep and lasting basis when dialogue recommences and mutual
respect is manifest”
according according to David Marlborough (Letters,
August 22nd). Perhaps he should study some recent (and ancient)
Were Germany and Japan converted to
representative democracy by "dialogue" and "mutual respect"? Or by their
utter destruction through military means, thereby providing a clean, albeit
rubble-strewn slate on which the (perennially hated) Americans could build a
new order that has brought sixty years of justice, peace and prosperity to
Mr Marlborough seems to
belong to the facile school that believes that all disputes can be solved by
jaw-jaw, never by war-war. It sounds warm and honourable, because no
right-thinking person wants death and destruction.
But just as it requires two to tango, it needs two to jaw-jaw
and both parties must be sincere. Jaw-jaw with Hezbollah and Hamas,
terrorist organizations sworn to destroy Israel and all Jews? Hardly.
Jaw-jaw with Iran, sharing the same objective and building a nuclear bomb to
carry it out? Iran has shown it is willing to jaw-jaw for as long as it
takes to complete its bomb. Hardly sincere.
Sometimes - if rarely - war-war is the more honourable and
in excising evil. But as history has repeatedly demonstrated, it can be
hard, long and painful, like complex surgery without anaesthetic.
To the Irish Times, 18th August 2006
Luas and Israel
Madam, - It's good to hear that Veolia
Transport Ireland, the Luas[*]
operator, confirm that co-operation with Israeli technicians involved in
setting up the Jerusalem light rail system has been halted only for
operational reasons (“Dispute
over Israeli link to Luas”,
World, August 18th). Submitting to political objections from the Ireland
Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Siptu and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions
might have branded the company as anti-Semitic. - Yours etc,
The Luas is Dublin's very successful light rail system
Published in the Irish Times, 17th August 2006
Cuban Health Care
Madam, - In defending Fidel Castro's Cuba, and its health
care, from Newton Emerson's satire (“Newton's
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 State over the period 1959-1987, according to frequent Nobel
Peace Prize nominee Professor RJ 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
- Yours etc,
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
To the Irish Times, 9th August 2006
the Geneva Conventions
Madam, - Israel is getting a lot of criticism, not least
in your Letters and Opinion pages, for its "war crimes" of killing civilians
in disregard of the Geneva Conventions. This is misdirected.
I of 1979, Article 48 of the Conventions states
“In order to ensure respect for and
protection of the civilian population and civilian objects, the Parties to
the conflict shall at all times DISTINGUISH BETWEEN THE CIVILIAN
POPULATION AND COMBATANTS and between civilian objects and military
objectives and accordingly shall direct their operations only against
So Hizbullah and Hamas, unlike the IDF,
consistently violate this by not wearing distinctive uniforms and by hiding
To cater for such “cowardly blending
among women and children” (to use
the words of UN humanitarian chief Jan
Egeland), Article 51-7 adds that
“The presence or movements of the
civilian population or individual civilians SHALL NOT BE USED TO RENDER
CERTAIN POINTS OR AREAS IMMUNE FROM MILITARY OPERATIONS, IN PARTICULAR IN
ATTEMPTS TO SHIELD MILITARY OBJECTIVES from attacks or to shield,
favour or impede military operations. The Parties to the conflict shall
not direct the movement of the civilian population or individual civilians
in order to attempt to shield military objectives from attacks or to
shield military operations.”
In other words, the Geneva Conventions
entitle Israel to attack Hiz-Ham even when they are shielded among
civilians. It's almost a carte blanche for flattening the whole of south
Lebanon and Gaza regardless of civilians. We should be grateful that they're
not doing so. - Yours etc.
This letter is an extract from my blog
To the Irish Times, 3rd August 2006
Computer Systems for Weapons
Madam, - Republican Des Long calls on “the
(perhaps he means the democratic government of Ireland) to “ban
the export of computer systems by Irish firms which assist American arms
August 3rd). These systems are what help guide Israel's bombs to their
targets. Without them the slaughter would truly be indiscriminate,
Dresden-style. - Yours etc,
For the uninitiated,
is a euphemism used by some Irish Republicans
because they do not recognize the elected Irish government,
believing that ever since the 1916 Uprising against British rule,
the IRA has remained the sole legitimate authority in the land.
To the Irish Times, 2nd August 2006
Madam, - Bishop John Kirby believes the world should do
more to create a state for the Palestinians (Opinion,
August 2nd)**. He would do well to direct this advice to the
Palestinian leadership, which has consistently refused a Palestinian state
whenever it has been offered - in 1937, 1948, 1967 and most recently in 2000
thanks to President Clinton's benign efforts. That's why there is no
Palestinian state today and why what Bishop Kirby refers to as “Palestinian
remain in fact “disputed
Moreover, as your
thoughtful editorial pointed out back on July 20th 2004, Hamas, whom the
Palestinians unwisely elected earlier this year as their current leaders,
"believe in an all-out confrontation with Israel rather than a negotiated
peace leading to a two-state outcome".
Were the Palestinians to take more responsibility for
obtaining and running their own state, it would undoubtedly bring this about
more effectively than any amount of outside intervention. - Yours etc.
**A non-subscription copy of the Opinion
piece is available
Published in the
Irish Times on 2nd August 2006
Madam, - In all the cries that Israel's response to
Hezbollah's terrorist invasion and rocket attacks has been “disproportionate”,
no one has come up with a formula that is “proportionate”,
including this newspaper's
editorial of August 1st.
It seems to me that
response would be either to turn the other cheek to
Hezbollah'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
The issue in Lebanon is
that you are forced to back either Israel or Hezbollah in their quests for
victory over the other; there is no middle ground. - Yours etc,
To the Irish Times, 28th July 2006
Hezbollah and Hamas
Madam, - It’s hard to
know where to begin to address the disgraceful opinion piece by Michael D
Higgins TD on 27th July (“Is
this the beginning of the end of international law?”).
He starts with pious
platitudes about the welfare of civilians, whether Arab or Israeli, and even
condemns Hezbollah’s recent action – though not because it’s wrong but only
because it might draw an
the powerful and disaster for Lebanese civilians.
He reminds us that
Israel is apparently breaching the Geneva Conventions, whereas it is Hamas
and Hezbollah who are by far the most egregious transgressors. They
deliberately use civilian populations as human shields – who then become
civilian casualties – by not wearing distinguishing uniforms and by hiding
themselves and their weapons among civilian homes, offices, shops, mosques,
schools and vehicles. By comparison with these studiously uncondemned war
crimes, Israel’s occasional breaches and mistakes are trivial.
He considers to be
Israel’s response to an
unprovoked attack from another sovereign country by Hezbollah, which is a
militia sponsored and funded by Iran and Syria, which Lebanese civilians
have knowingly voted in to parliament and which forms part of the Lebanese
government; ditto re Hamas’s attacks from Gaza. Yet he offers no
alternative response to these assaults.
He thinks the free
election of Hamas by Palestinians and of Hezbollah by the Lebanese
exonerates these people for the vile obliterate-Israel objective of the two
organizations, and the consequences of this whether economic sanctions or
war. This patronising attitude is to infantilise the electorates, and is
like exonerating the Germans from responsibility for the genocidal results
of having freely elected Hitler in 1933.
Finally he gets to the
point: that the US and Israel are
for resisting a ceasefire, a view that would evidently be shared by Senators
David Norris and Brendan Ryan judging from their recent letters.
Let’s think for a moment
what a ceasefire means.
It means that Hezbollah,
an avowed terrorist organization committed to the death of Jews, and not
only in Israel, gets away with its assaults on Israel. This will be seen –
rightly – as a military victory by not only Hezbollah, but also by Israel,
the entire Middle East and the world. The power and prestige of Syria and
Iran and their tyrannical leaderships will at once be enormously enhanced.
You can be sure they will immediately re-arm and re-fund Hezbollah for
further and more deadly attacks against Israel, safe in the knowledge that
it will be a long time before anyone dares to seriously challenge them
again, if ever. Meanwhile, Lebanon will sink into ever deeper thrall to
Hezbollah until it doubtless succumbs to it altogether, becoming an Iranian
This is the outcome
which Mr Higgins and his fellow-travellers of the depraved Left seem so
fervently to seek. The absolute hegemony of a terrorist Islamicism
dedicated to the eradication first of all the world's Jews, then of all
infidels such as him and me. This is a recipe not for peace but for
military victory for the terrorists followed by endless war. - Yours etc,
Back to index
To the Irish Times, 18th July 2006
Self-Defence by Israel
In his incoherent letter published in both the
Irish Times and
Irish Independent on July 18th, Senator David Norris seems to be of the
opinion that Israel should, lest civilians be killed in the process,
right of self-defence against enemies sworn to its annihilation . He seems
to think that the Lebanese and Palestinian governments, who have openly
harboured the militants of Hezbollah and Hamas, allowing them to train, get
armed and attack Israel's sovereign territory, bear no responsibility to
their own citizens for the deadly consequences of this dereliction of duty,
which also breaches 2004's UN Resolution 1559 requiring the Lebanese
government to disarm Hezbollah.
Combined with the Senator's renowned opposition to
America's UN-mandated assistance to - and at the request of - the legitimate
and democratic Iraqi government against insurgents, he gives the appearance
of never being happy unless Americans are humiliated, Jews dead and
What does he think will happen to gays, for example, when
the Caliphate eventually stretches to Dublin?
Back to index
Published in the Irish Times, 15th July 2006
Civilian Deaths in
Israel/Gaza/Lebanon Conflict P!
CRISIS IN THE MIDDLE EAST
Madam, - As Senator Brendan Ryan well knows when he refers
“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
The civilians killed in the Israeli retaliation against Gaza and Lebanon for
the respective invasions by Hamas and Hizbollah 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 through 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,
Source of the statistics
Further reference used in composing this letter
DEBATE ON THE CRISIS IN THE MIDDLE EAST -
20th July 2006
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
(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.
To which my
response is ...
To the Irish Times, 20th July 2006
Middle East Facts
Madam, - How Senator Brendan Ryan (re)defines
murder, by drawing parallels with the IRA, makes some sense (Letters, July
20th). I don't agree, but do acknowledge that some jurisdictions might
have ruled that some unintentional killing is murder.
But his final paragraph is replete
The repeated, unprovoked attacks of
Hizbollah and Hamas on Israel from outside its international borders, were
of course unlawful, just as Israel's retaliation in self-defence is
certainly lawful - at least according to the charter of the hallowed UN.
In 1967, Israel defeated its Arab
neighbours who were sworn under Nasser to its obliteration, and in the
process seized as the spoils of war Sinai and Gaza from Egypt, the Golan
Heights from Syria and and the West Bank including East Jerusalem from
Jordan. Israel's 1979 peace agreement with Egypt resulted in the return
of Sinai (Gaza had never belonged to it), and in 1988 Jordan renounced all
claim to the West Bank before signing a peace treaty in 1994.
Because the Palestinians had refused
their own state when offered it in 1948 (and again in 1967 and 2000), Gaza
and the West Bank have remained "disputed" territories, not Palestinian
ones. Thus Israel's presence there has been no more "unlawful" than the
Palestinians'; likewise their settlements. Nevertheless, Israel
unilaterally handed Gaza to the Palestinians last year, giving them their
first opportunity to show they were serious about wanting their own
I don't know whether the detention of
a thousand Palestinians is lawful or not.
As for the unfortunate Rachel Corrie,
she was a member of the International Solidarity Movement which openly
espoused armed struggle against Israel, and she positioned herself in
front of and out of sight of the driver of an Israeli bulldozer that was
trying to dig up Hamas tunnels used to smuggle weapons from Egypt. Her
death was neither intentional nor unlawful; it was more akin to suicide. -
Back to index
To the Irish Times, 13th July 2006
Enforce the Alcohol
Madam, - For Minister for the Environment, Dick Roche to
even think that carnage on our roads would be reduced by lowering to zero
the current alcohol limit of 80 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood (Ireland,
July 13th) shows how out of touch he is.
No research has ever shown that such a reduction brings any beneficial
effect on road deaths. For the issue is not whether the limit is low
enough. It is whether it is enforced - which in this country it patently is
Road deaths will be dramatically curtailed only once there are Gardaí
breath-test teams waiting in every pub carpark at 11 pm. - Yours etc,
Back to index
To the Irish Times, 4th July 2006
Policy in Palestinian Area
Madam, - Your columnist John Kelly calls (Palestinian)
as if they were some unlucky accident. They are not. They are deliberate,
evil, unjustifiable acts by malevolent individuals, frequently directed by
other wicked people. No-one should lose sight of this central truth.
- Yours, etc,
I followed up this
(unpublished) letter with an e-mail on 6th July to John Kelly, an
emeritus professor, who last month authored a column,
wall strangles the life out of Bethlehem”
about Palestinian suffering caused by Israel's separation fence/wall.
His piece prompted a
defense of the wall by John Lalor in Tel Aviv
which in turn triggered two
identical responses from Prof Kelly.
Dear Professor Kelly, - Since the Irish Times has
in the past couple of days published two letters from you, identical but
for the curious deletion in the second of them of a reference to
bombings by Palestinians”,
but has decided not to publish my own response to you, I attach a copy
for your information and comment.
Actually, it is also odd that you made no connection between the
Israelis' wall/fence and the drastic reduction of Palestinian suicide
bombings that followed its construction (which is its stated purpose).
Though you commendably deplore the negative effects of the wall/fence on
innocent Palestinian civilians, I presume you also rejoice at its
success in preserving the lives of innocent Israeli civilians. Or do
you? - Regards,
Up to now [11th July], I have had no comment
from Professor Kelly.
Back to index
To the Irish Times, 21st June 2006
Support for the Iraq War
“many thousands of us (the
people) keep making it clear we are against our Government's support of
America's war in Iraq”.
No doubt this is true, but is it not a sad indictment on such people? For
let no-one be in any doubt. Regardless of whether you support the original
invasion or not, the current conflict is no longer between Saddam's forces
and the American/Coalition armies.
On one side of the war, there is now an unknown number of insurgents,
comprising Saddamites, Ba'athists, foreign jihadists and no doubt various
hangers-on and dead-enders, led largely by the charismatic fundamentalist
Islamicist, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi until his recent death. They seek to
restore Ba'athism or to impose Taliban-like rule. With, of course, power in
their own hands alone - and permanently.
The other side comprises, quite simply, those twelve million Iraqis who last
December voted, against all odds and with tremendous personal courage, to
give birth to a new, legitimate, democratic Iraqi state. The famous purple
fingers, waved proudly at every camera in sight, demonstrated this beyond
any doubt. This is the side that the American/Coalition forces and the
nascent Iraqi army and police are protecting and building up against the
insurgents. An American/Coalition withdrawal would be the equivalent of
handing post-war Germany back to the criminal Nazis or Eastern Europe back
to the criminal Soviets.
Thus, to deny support to America and the Coalition is to deny the future
that 12m Iraqis want and are entitled to, and which we in the West take for
granted for ourselves, won for us by the blood of previous generations. I
for one commend Ireland's small but significant contribution in making
Shannon available to the brave American volunteer troops who are on the side
of those millions of Iraqis. Mr Hyde seems to have made clear whose side he
is on. -
second attempt to get a
similar letter published
Back to index
To the Irish Times, 16th June 2006
Madam, - Your correspondent Derek Scally reports that
“Tehran says [its nuclear] programme is vital to secure Iran's future
energy needs” (World,
According to the CIA, Iran produces
3.979 million barrels a day of oil out of proven reserves of
133.3 billion barrels, in other words 92 years-worth.
Simultaneously, it produces
million cubic metres a day of gas out of
proven gas reserves of
27.5 trillion cubic metres, or 209 years-worth.
In terms of “barrels of oil
equivalent”, this adds up to 6.3m bbl/day out of reserves of 313 bn bbl,
or in aggregate 136 years of energy availability.
With such an enormous store of cheap
fossil fuel, spending money on expensive nuclear energy that you won't
need for a century is a gross waste of your citizens' patrimony,
especially when huge numbers of them are stuck in poverty. You will do it
only if you have an ulterior motive, which in Iran's case will undoubtedly
earn it a thorough bombing before long unless it changes tack.
- Yours, etc,
Back to index
To the Irish Times, 5th June 2006
“3,000 victims killed in Cuba
by right-wing extremists based in Florida”?
Finian McGrath TD (Letters,
June 5th) better have firm evidence for this astounding,
Yet even if it were true - and it most
certainly isn't - it pales beside the
73,000 fatalities (up to only 1987), for which his hero Fidel Castro,
whom he wants to invite to the Oireachtas, is directly responsible, by
executions, camps, and the deaths of boat people trying to escape Cuba.
The impeccable source of this figure is frequent Nobel Peace Prize nominee
Professor RJ Rummel, the noted expert on democide (the killing of people
by their government). -
+ + + + +
|I sent a copy of this letter
to Finian McGrath at the address provided on his
He has courteously replied as follows ...
The actual figures are:
1. 3,478 Cubans killed
2. 2,099 Maimed
There were all the work of U.S. based terrorists since 1959. There is
always two sides to a story.
Finian McGrath T.D.
p.s. I disagree with the Irish Times
for not publishing your letter.
I have followed up with a further
request to him for the source of these numbers.
Despite a further chaser on 16th
June, Mr McGrath has failed to substantiate these numbers. No
doubt because he is unable to, but doesn't want to admit it.
16th July: The plot
thickens. Mr McGrath referred me to a Simon McGuinness, who in
figures you refer to are taken from official Cuban government
documents and were registered in a legal prosecution of the US
government in 1999. I suggest you contact the Cuban ambassador in
Ireland who will be able to provide you with the detail you request.
Through googling, I then found that Mr McGrath had
quoted the detailed figures in a
letter to the Sunday Business Post last May, just after one from
Pedro Noel Carillo (475.2999 y
475.0899), the Cuban Ambassador himself.
Moreover, on 8th July Mr McGrath also
quoted them in the Dáil. They also appear in a number of
websites, notably this
Cuban site which explains the 1999 prosecution of the US, which by
the way seeks $181 billion in reparations.
I have therefore written to the Cuban embassy in
Dublin asking for original sources of the casualty
This site solidly refutes the
claim of 3,478 Cubans killed by
the US, saying it takes its information from
Cuba Archive, claimed to be
Back to index
in the Irish Times, 2nd June 2006
over Easter Mass
Madam, - Rev
David Fraser, who from the context of his
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
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
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
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.
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.
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,
properly understood, this letter needs to be viewed as one in three; click
Back to index
|To the Irish Times, 2nd June 2006
Knowing the Limits
As I understand it, the Supreme Court has ruled that under the
[Irish] Constitution a valid defense for having sex with a minor is claiming to not know the child was under 16.
Presumably, people can now claim the same Constitutional defence if accused of driving whilst exceeding the legal
blood-alcohol limit of 80 mg per 100 ml of blood - namely that they didn't know they were over the limit . Indeed, without a measurement device how could they? - Yours etc,
Back to index
|To the Sunday Times, 31st May 2006
(on May 28th) on the way that major bookstore chains promote books not on
the basis of literary merit, but by payments they demand from publishers,
is apposite and creditable. But your editorial
strangely fails to state categorically that books recommended in the
Sunday Times book pages are not also subject to this practice.
Back to index
To the Irish Times, 15th May 2006
Strikers in St Patrick's Cathedral
The Church of Ireland hierarchy should
explain why it is permitting the desecration of St Patrick's Cathedral by
permitting 41 Muslims to remain inside while they attempt suicide by
16th). It's not as if there is a shortage of mosques in Dublin
for such anti-Christian and, indeed, anti-Islamic behaviour. - Yours etc,
Back to index
To the Irish Times, 9th May 2006
aid for Palestinians who vote for Hamas
You report (May
8th) that "the EU is getting ready to go it alone and channel emergency funds to the
Palestinians if talks with the US, Russia and United Nations on setting
up an international mechanism for easing their financial plight fail
Why? The majority of the Palestinian people have
knowingly, democratically and legitimately voted in Hamas, an
organization which quite openly refuses to renounce violence, recognize
Israel or honour past peace deals. Why then should the Palestinian
people be spared the economic effects of their own deliberate action?
There is no ethical case for EU countries to continue to donate to these
people the annual $453 million that they used to receive, and the same
goes for America's $368m [Ref
Until Hamas reforms, or the Palestinian people kick them
out again, the prolongation of such gifts would be a shocking misuse of
taxpayers' money. Actions have consequences. - Yours, etc
Back to index
To the Irish Times, 3rd May 2006
Chairman of the Road Safety Authority Gay Byrne finds the increase in drink-driving arrests and continued fatalities on the roads over the May bank holiday weekend
(front page, May
3rd). The continued fatalities are of course very disappointing, but he should rejoice at the increase in drink-driving arrests.
Any sustained and successful safety drive will begin with a big increase in the rate of lesser injuries and unsafe behaviour. This reflects not a deteriorating situation, but improved measurement and enforcement, focussing on events that in previous careless times had been neglected.
There will need to be many more breathalysing tests and drink-driving arrests before our drink-driving culture begins to change, and only then can we expect to see a drop in drink-driving related fatalities. All credit to the Gardaí for making a start.
Back to index
To the Irish Times, 2nd May 2006
Ireland is a
Success (not a Failure as Fintan O'Toole would have it)
Fintan O'Toole bemoans Ireland's lack of a "national" education system, health system, childcare or pre-school system, telecommunications system, sufficient public housing etc
2nd). From the context, it is clear he means "nationalised".
He also thinks the Irish should be paid more, to work less and have more holidays
He throws in a few gerrymandered, out-of-date statistics, like contrasting 2002's all-Ireland GDP ($31,000 per capita) with inner London's ($84,000). It is more valid to compare 2005 GDP figures for all-Ireland ($34,100
at Purchasing Power Parity) with all-UK ($30,900)
1]. He then exclaims in horror that certain software-related professionals earn less here than in some other EU countries, without explaining why they don't immediately move there.
He points out that according to the HR consulting company Mercer, Dublin ranks 13th city in the world in terms of cost of living. This indeed makes it costlier than cities in several of Fintan's preferred countries such as Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Los Angeles, but it is also cheaper than others such as Zurich and London. Mercer rates Dublin as 24th in terms of quality of living, ahead of Hamburg, London, New York but behind Amsterdam,
As for Mr O'Toole's obsolete assertion that in 2002 Ireland would have been the USA's 35th richest state, Ireland, as of 2005, is the only country in the whole EU to have caught up with the American economy, according to the Swedish think-tank,
Timbro, using Eurostat figures
To all these facts should be added Ireland's robust future prospects as inferred by its healthy growth rate of 4.7%, compared with 3.5% for the USA and a sickly 0.7%-1.9% for Holland, Germany, UK and Switzerland
You then begin to see that this country, overall, might not be, despite its undoubted problems, a bad place to be living. Perhaps that's why those "underpaid" professionals don't emigrate and so many non-Irish come to these shores to work.
Ireland's governance and Capitalistic economic policies over the past decade have played a huge part in this success story, that Mr O'Toole seeks to disparage.
Get over it, Fintan. If you want a Communist system where the state owns and runs everything, in a manner that is equally impoverishing for all (except the ruling elite), go and live in one of the few remaining Communist states. North Korea, for example.
Reference 1: CIA World Factbook 2006
Reference 2: Mercer Human Resource Consulting, Cost of Living Survey - Worldwide Rankings
Reference 3: Mercer Human Resource Consulting, Worldwide Quality of Living Survey 2006
Reference 4: "EU Versus USA", by Fredrik Bergström & Robert
Gidehag, Timbro, June 2004
Back to index
in the Irish Times on 28th April 2006
PD TAX-CUTTING PROMISES
Madam, - What a wonderful civic example Michael Ahern sets
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,
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in the Sunday Times, 21st April 2006
Probing Sue Lawley
PROBING QUESTIONS: So Giles Hattersley reckons Sue Lawley is a probing interviewer because she “asked Gordon Brown if he was gay” and “got Ted Heath to say the latter years of his political life had
“a certain loneliness and sense of waste”.” Probing would have been to switch these questions around.
Item to which this letter refers ...
next request? Get me off the island”
Giles Hattersley talks to Sue Lawley (presenter of the BBC's “Desert
16th April 2006
Back to index
in the Irish Times on 21st April 2006
Mass in Drogheda- 21st April 2006
Madam, - The “concelebration”
of Mass by four Catholic and Church of Ireland priests in Drogheda was shocking and a sham.
page, April 18th]
Catholics believe that the Mass's consecration transubstantiates water 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,
For further developments on this
subject, click here.
Back to index
To the Irish Times, 17th April 2006
- 17th April 2006
Dr Michael Loftus moans because Diageo [brewers
of Guinness] has had the temerity to give UCD €1½ million for research into hazardous drinking among young people, implying that the source of funds will influence the outcome
17th). This is an outrageous calumny on the integrity of UCD's research capability, for which he should
It is also an affront to the drinks (or any) industry to consider that it is devoid of ethical standards when it comes to its own products.
Back to index
To the Irish Times, 15th April 2006
One can only have sympathy for the plight of Iranian
Kurd refugees in the Jordanian camp of Ruwayshid, having fled there from
their previous haven in the (Sunni) Al-Anbar province of Iraq (News
Features, April 15th).
The 25 million Kurds of Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria
consider themselves a single people with a single language and culture,
for which those countries have long persecuted them.
Of those, Iraq is now however - despite all its problems
- a constitutional democracy with specific protection for minorities such
as Kurds. Moreover, the Kurdish provinces of northern Iraq are among
the most peaceful and most prosperous in the country, if not the Middle
East. And thanks to their protectorate, Saddam-free status during the
12 years between the two Gulf wars, defended by a no-fly zone, they have
remained an oasis of democracy, sanity and economic progress since 1991,
able to practice the Kurdish language and culture at will. Indeed,
this oasis is currently experiencing an unprecedented tourist
So before Ireland takes in 200 Kurdish refugees as
proposed, the question of why Iraq's Kurdish area does not do so must be
answered. To note that the refugees "are adamant about never
returning to Iraq" is not an acceptable rationale without clear
evidence that their fellow-Kurds would oppress them.
Back to index
in the Irish Times on 8th April 2006
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"
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]
* Deleted by
Back to index
in the Irish Times on 4th April 2006
Drumms Comments on MRSA
So Professor Brendan Drumm, chief executive of the Health Service, does not
want us ordinary members of the public to know how many people in hospital
are dying through MRSA and which hospitals have the highest MRSA mortality
rates, because it might
He has 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 exhibits the most MRSA deaths, fright may well save my life
as I would seek to go elsewhere.
He should stop patronising us.
Back to index
To the Irish Times, 3rd April 2006
Venue for the Munster/Leinster Semi-Final
Bar a few hundred valiant French fans, raucous Munster men and women have just filled Lansdowne Road to its 48,000 capacity, leaving countless unlucky ticketless fans who had to watch in pubs and at home. Meanwhile, over 6,000 similarly vociferous Leinster fans travelled 1,200 kilometres to Toulouse, by road, plane, rail and boat to create a swathe of defiant blue among the home side's black and red. The wonderful results of both games will resonate for years to come, like the strains of Athenry and Fair City.
And so to a massive Leinster/Munster semi-final in three weeks time, which will surely create the fiercest demand for tickets that Irish rugby has ever known. Lansdowne Road could be filled twice over if not thrice. For it will not be just Munster and Leinster aficionados in the hunt, but rugby lovers from all corners of the island.
And yet, just across the river there is a magnificent, under-utilised stadium, with a capacity of 82,000, more than any other venue in Ireland or the UK, whose owners have already accepted in principle the idea of rugby being played on its hallowed turf. Let's do the sums. Say an average of 40 Euro a ticket, of which the owners receive maybe 20. More than one and a half million there for the taking and for almost no effort.
What a magnificent, patriotic and magnanimous gesture it would be for the GAA to offer Croke Park for this once-in-a-generation all-Irish semi-final of the European cup. And what a lucrative one as well.
What about it, gentlemen?
Back to index
To the Irish Times, 29th March 2006
Kyoto Money Wasting
So the Government thinks it's a good idea to spend one billion Euro of taxpayers' and business's hard-earned money to help meet Kyoto commitments (Ireland, March 29th). That's one
billion that will vanish, but for absolutely no discernible effect, as even the pro-Green organizations such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth admit. If Kyoto is implemented in full (which no-one seriously believes) it would merely defer global warming by six years in a century's time, ie without Kyoto the temperature will rise by 1.9 deg C in 2094, with Kyoto it will not rise by this amount until 2100 [Refs 1, 2, 3].
Undoubtedly climate change should be taken as a serious threat, and one which man may or may not be able to do something about. But all Kyoto does is to make certain interests feel good, whilst squandering the world's financial resources in order to make no difference whatsoever.
The Government should have the moral courage to abrogate it immediately and stop wasting our money.
|Ref 1: T M Wigley, 1998, “The Kyoto Protocol: CO2, CH4 and Climate
Implications”, Geophysical Research Letters 25(13):2, 285-8 |
|Ref 2: Richard Benedick, 1998, “How workable is the Kyoto Protocol?”,
|Ref 3: : Science magazine, 19 Dec 1997, Section 1,
Note - I first made this still-valid
argument in the very first issue of the Tallrite Blog back in July
Back to index
To the Irish Times, 23rd March 2006
Will Trócaire Alleviate Child Labour?
I am uncomfortable with Trócaire's extensive Lenten campaign, on TV and radio, focused on child labour. A couple of Nicaraguan children are depicted who are being forced by unscrupulous bosses to undertake long hours of hazardous work in the coffee fields for paltry wages. They are denied education and their impoverished families need their pitiful earnings.
No-one can fail to deplore such a situation.
Trócaire's website explains that these kids are among over a hundred million under-12s worldwide and solicits donations. Yet its only explanation of how the money will actually be used is that, "Trócaire works with communities to help children get information about their rights and help them into the education system. They also receive skills training so they can get proper jobs when they finish school."
How will this alleviate child labour? Is Trócaire going to put the funds into setting up new schools? To get children to attend, is it going to reimburse them their foregone wages so that the families don't suffer? How will it ration this when word gets around that youngsters are being paid to go to school? How is it going to deter employers from hiring children from the next village, or from raising wages to lure children back to the fields? Will it subsidise wages so that the bosses can afford to hire adults instead of children? How are such subsidies going to be managed and controlled? Is Trócaire going to install its own permanent administrators to make sure everything works and is not abused?
Child labour is not something that is solvable simply by throwing a bit of money at it in a once-off gesture, as Trócaire seems to imply. Without clarifying this issue, many might find its campaign misleading and direct their Lenten donations elsewhere.
See also blog post
and Child Labour”
on which this letter is based
Back to index
|To the Irish Times, 16th March 2006
[Distinguished surgeon] Dr
Maurice Neligan's casual dismissal of the many lives wrecked by Dr Michael
Neary's unnecessary removal of up to 129
wombs as a "lapse, or whatever you want to call it" (Health,
March 14th) is in keeping with the many vague and unconvincing
attempts to find a reason for why Dr Neary's hysterectomy rate was 20
times greater than the average. It was religion, say some, he was
afraid of blood say others, he thought he was saving life. None of them
ring any truer than Dr Neligan's century of "lapses".
A more rational explanation might be a case of simple
misogyny, cunningly disguised. This seems to be consistent with all
of the reported facts.
Back to index
in the Irish Times, 10th March 2006
View of the PDs
Madam, - Political philosophy lecturer Stephen J. Costello
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.
Councillor Dermot Lacey makes an insipid
and unconvincing response
of Social Democracy
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,
Back to index
in the Irish Times, 28th February 2006
Over Cartoons (again!)
Madam, - Just as Anka Jamayel
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.
Back to index
in the Irish Times, 27th February 2006
Over Cartoons - 27th February 2006
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
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?
which this letter relates ...
occurred by chance rather than contrivance ”
(about President McAleese's other recent gaffes),
Irish Times, 24th February
Back to index
|To the Irish Times, 17th February 2006
Iraqi Kurdish Refugees
Why is Ireland taking in 200 Iraqi Kurd refugees, camped
for the last three years between Iraq and Jordan, when their home country,
Iraq, is now a constitutional democracy, of which the Kurdish provinces
are among the most peaceful and most prosperous in the country, if not the
Arab world? (Ireland, February 17th). Why don't they simply move to
their own country?
Item to which this letter refers ...
Ireland will resettle 200 Iraqi Kurd refugees
by Kathy Sheridan
Back to index
in the Irish Times, 16th February 2006
Breath-Testing and Civil Liberties
Tom Cooney (on 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 as such an indefensible infringement of civil
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 however a separate
This letter was published here.
Item to which the letter refers ...
roads by all means, but not at the expense of civil liberties
Tom Cooney, who teaches law at University College, Dublin
Back to index
in the Irish Times, 9th February 2006
Religion vs Race
"The cartoons are racist" declares David Manning (Letters,
February 9th). Perhaps he would care to state what "race" he is
Whilst we can pick and choose and chop and change our religious beliefs,
each of us is stuck with his/her race, ethnicity, DNA. That's why
lampooning someone's religion is acceptable, but ridiculing his/her race
Item to which this letter refers ...
OVER CARTOONS OF MUHAMMAD
Madam, - The "cartoon controversy" has been dubbed the fight of the century - freedom of speech versus Islam. While the reaction emanating from some quarters - comprising a handful of the world's 1.2 billion Muslims - has been unnecessarily violent, the purpose has little to do with freedom of expression, just as the publication could not be considered such.
The cartoons are racist. They suggest all Muslims as terrorists. In 2003 the same Danish newspaper rejected freedom of expression and turned down cartoons lampooning Jesus on the grounds that they were offensive. What followed recently was not a show of solidarity by fellow newspapers, it was a provocation. If one truly wanted to test the media's solidarity with each other's right to freedom of expression, then the same newspapers will presumably print the winning entry from the Holocaust competition run by Hamshahri, Iran's leading daily - something, no doubt, we can all find offensive.
In understanding, to an extent, why the violent outbursts have occurred it is first necessary to put the cartoons publication in context. Since 9/11, war has been waged against a vague entity known as "terror", the targets being predominantly Muslim. Now it is deemed by the self-styled shapers of opinion, the media, to be acceptable to label all Muslims terrorists, in the interests of free speech, while the predominant views of ordinary Muslims are marginalised by extremist groups gaining support as a result of a "misunderstanding" of Western intervention.
Without a significant change in attitude towards Islam we are destined forever to explain violent incidents committed by Muslims as proof of barbarity - the West's use of torture, carpet-bombing and targeted assassinations as accidents, incidents and necessities. - Yours, etc,
DAVID MANNING, Sandymount, Dublin 4.
Back to index
|To the Irish Times, 6th February 2006
Offense to Europeans and Danes
Is it not curious that newspapers such as the Irish
Times decline to publish those notorious Danish cartoons out of
sensitivity of offending Muslims, yet don't hesitate to publish photos of
“Europe is the cancer, Islam
is the answer”
(front page, February 4th) or photographs showing Danish flags being
desecrated by burning or stamping?
The placards gravely offend Europeans, the photos Danes,
and are clearly intended to inspire racist hatred of Europeans and Danes
Why are Europeans and Danes not worthy of the same
"sensitivity" as Muslims?
Back to index
|To the Irish Times, 3rd February 2006
Dear oh dear, there is that tired old Trotskyite Tariq Ali, almost forgotten remnant of the swinging protesting Sixties, popping up in your pages
3rd) and apparently about to grace us with his presence as a guest of the misnamed Peace And Neutrality Alliance.
(PANA actually espouses war and partisanship - but on the opposite side of the American coalition in Iraq. For example, in these pages just before President Bush's visit in 2004, PANA's Chairperson Roger Cole
expressed the view that the
“Iraqi resistance to occupation [is] a legitimate independence struggle”, and he was not talking about
You will forgive me for drawing your attention to Dr Ali having made the same mistake (Opinion, February 3rd) that Dr FitzGerald made last Saturday. Dr Ali says,
“Iran has as much right to nuclear weapons as any of the existing nuclear states. Why is Israel's 200-bomb arsenal acceptable? India and Pakistan are also fine. What all three states share in common is loyalty to the
empire.” What the three actually share is that none of them
signed the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty that would otherwise forbid them to develop nuclear weapons. Iran did sign, and that's why it, unlike those three, has no legal right to nuclear weapons.
I look forward to his forthcoming lecture here titled “The War on
Iraq” (an interesting choice of preposition). I trust it will not urge continued violence.
“Why the Government does not want to fall out with Uncle
by Deaglán de Bréadún, Irish Times, June 25th, 2004
Back to index
|To the Irish Times, 31st January 2006
Agenda” and EU Aid
Your editorial of January 31st states
that “for the EU to close the door [ie cease annual payments of €500m
to the Palestinian government] so quickly would almost certainly propel
the new administration to embrace the Iranian agenda towards Israel.”,
which as we know from President Ahmadeinejad is that Israel should be
wiped from the map (Editorial,
But Hamas have already embraced precisely this agenda;
it's their founding principle. It would therefore be outrageously
immoral for the EU to continue to pay cash gifts to the Palestinian
government when Hamas take it over, unless and until Hamas renounce their
destroy-Israel objective and all violence. To do so, the EU would be
directly subsidising the destruction and the violence.
Yes, withdrawal of this cash will hurt ordinary
Palestinians. Yet it is those very same ordinary Palestinians who
have just voted overwhelmingly for Hamas's “Iranian” agenda, so
without the renunciation they deserve to be hurt, to learn that actions
Hamas with their huge mandate are facing, for the first
time, real accountability, real choices, real dilemmas. They can
rain down pain - economically and militarily - on their electorate by
sticking to their “Iranian” agenda. Or they can renounce it and
reap the consequent rewards for their electorate.
Personally, I believe they are smart enough and tough
enough to do the latter, and have sufficient street-cred to carry their
electorate with them. Moreover, they will also be formidable adversaries
in any peace negotiations with Israel.
See also blogpost Hamas
... The Future Peacemaker
Back to index
Published in the Irish Times, 2nd February 2006
Spread of Nuclear Arms
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 (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?]
This letter was in fact published,
on 2nd February, but only after the concluding insult was deleted
|[*Deleted by Editor]
Details about the Nuclear Non
Proliferation Treaty and its signatories were obtained from Wikipedia
and the Federation of American Scientists
Back to index
|To the Irish Times, 25th January 2006
One Finger Equals
Last week, a couple in California were sentenced to nine
years imprisonment for planting a human finger in a bowl of chili at a
Wendy's restaurant and then fraudulently claiming compensation [Ref 1].
This week, Wayne O'Donoghue was sentenced to four years for the
manslaughter of Robert Holohan.
On this evidence, it would appear that one American
finger is worth more than two Irish children.
Ref 1 : Couple
gets 9 years for Wendy's finger scam
See also blogpost Giving
Back to index
|To the Irish Times, 24th January 2006
Bits Off Babies
So a Government-appointed expert
committee warns that 'any injury to an infant
arising from a circumcision carried out by “an incompetent
person” could be deemed
to be a form of child abuse and be subject to child protection legislation
or criminal law' (January 24th).
What precisely is the difference
between an incompetent person person needlessly
chopping bits off babies and and a so-called competent one as the committee proposes? Both are committing egregious abuses
of the child resulting in
permanent mutilation and should be prosecuted with the full force of the law. The same applies to female genital
mutilation, or is the committee
proposing that this too should be conducted by medical staff to satisfy
someone or other's cultural, religious or tribal whims (or indeed to make a case for deportations)? If ever there was a case
for amending the Irish
Constitution to strengthen the rights of the child, surely this is it.
In the absence of a medical need, no
doctor, parent or anyone else has the right
to chop bits off children without the informed consent of the patient, which
means waiting until he/she grows up.
It is time to trample roughshod over
religious, cultural and tribal sensitivities
and ban all forms of child mutilation in the West. A condition of living in the West should be to respect
children's rights. Meanwhile
we should be campaigning for similar bans in countries where such barbarity finds a home.
We make enough fuss when the religious
orders abuse children.
Item to which this letter refers
should perform circumcisions, report says
A Government-appointed expert
committee has recommended that the health authorities
establish regional services to carry out cultural male circumcisions, writes Martin Wall.
The committee's report, which has been
given to Minister for Health Mary Harney,
strongly argues for the procedure to be carried out in a medical setting. It says that circumcisions “performed by
untrained people in inappropriate environments
are not acceptable in Ireland”.
It warns that any injury to an infant
arising from a circumcision carried out
by “an incompetent person” could be deemed to be a form of child
abuse and be subject to child
protection legislation or criminal law.
It says that such incidents should be
reported to the Health Service Executive,
properly investigated, and decisions taken on the facts of the individual
case. The report says circumcisions should be performed by appropriately-trained
surgeons and anaesthetists in adequately equipped units.
However, the committee says it is
satisfied that the practice of neo-natal Orthodox
Jewish circumcisions - carried out by trained rabbis - should be permitted
to continue. It proposes that this situation be kept under review.
The expert committee, chaired by the
professor of paediatrics at the Royal College
of Surgeons, Dr Denis Gill, was established by the Department of Health
to establish the needs for cultural circumcision, to address the ethical
considerations and draw up recommendations on procedures to be followed
if the practice was considered appropriate.
Last October a Nigerian man was found
not guilty by a court in Waterford of reckless
endangerment in relation to a home circumcision he carried out in the county two years previously. The court had been told that
a 29-day-old boy, Collis
Osaighe, had died from haemorrhage and shock due to bleeding some hours after the circumcision had been carried out.
In its findings the expert committee
recommends that cultural male circumcisions
should be provided in the Irish health services.
It says the Health Services Executive
should provide a regional service capable
of performing the requisite number of circumcisions.
It estimates that up to 2,000 such
procedures could be required annually. The
report also warns that the provision of increasing numbers of elective circumcisions
may have an impact on the volume of other surgical procedures that
can be performed in hospitals.
The report says that medical and
nursing staff who have ethical objections to
the procedure should be allowed to opt out of the service.
See also blogpost Chopping
Bits Off Babies (August 2003)
Back to index
|To the Irish Times, 19th January 2006
Left free to harass
"Left free to harass in Ireland" blared
Mary Raftery's headline on Thursday (Jan 19th). How true, I
thought. Hardly anyone wants to challenge the Left's ideological
nonsense in this country.
So imagine how confused I felt when her story talked
instead about a doctor harrassing his unfortunate patient.
A quiet word in Ms Raftery's ear perhaps?
Back to index
To the Irish Times, 17th January
Your excellent editorial, “Bachelet
victory breaks the mould” (January 17th) reminded us that “Salvador Allende's left-wing reformist regime between 1970 and 1973
... ended with Allende being overthrown by General Augusto Pinochet's army
coup and an era of savage repression followed it”.
It would have been more complete to
remind your readers that Pinochet´s savagery was accompanied by right
wing economic policies that raised Chile´s wealth beyond the dreams of
the rest of South America. Indeed, when you point out that its new
president, Ms Michelle Bachelet, “is on the moderate centre left and
inherits a stable and prosperous economy governed according to neo-liberal
principles”, we should remember that those are the very principles
inherited from Pinochet.
It is exasperating when a wicked man
leaves a positive legacy.
Item to which this letter refers -
victory breaks the mould
With the election of Ms Michelle
Bachelet as their president, Chileans have confirmed their political
preference for the centre-left forces which have ruled them continuously
since the military dictatorship was removed in 1990.
Ms Bachelet won this run-off election
decisively, securing a 53 to 47 per cent majority - 400,000 voters out of
the seven million who participated. She told her victory rally: “I am
a woman, a socialist, separated and agnostic - all the sins
She is the first woman president of a
traditionalist Catholic state which up to now has been dominated by male
leaders but which is undergoing transformation towards a more secular and
liberal social agenda on gender equality, divorce and birth control. Ms
Bachelet caught that mood very well as the daughter of an air force
general who died in custody during the Pinochet dictatorship and who was
herself tortured and exiled, as a former minister for health and defence,
and as a single mother of three. She gained the support of a majority of
both women and men and she has pledged to pursue a reforming agenda.
As president, Ms Bachelet will appoint
the cabinet from the four-party Concertación alliance which has ruled
Chile since 1990. She has said that half of the ministers will be women
and she has promised to reduce social inequalities and unemployment while
keeping the economy open. Chile's recent performance has been strongest
among the Latin American countries, based on buoyant copper exports and
orthodox fiscal discipline under outgoing president Ricardo Lagos,
producing a surplus which has been used to reduce basic poverty.
Chile caught the world's imagination
during Salvador Allende's left-wing reformist regime between 1970 and
1973. That episode ended with Allende being overthrown by General Augusto
Pinochet's army coup and an era of savage repression followed it. The
country's gradual, consensual recovery from that experience has been drawn
out over the last 16 years. The former general is to be prosecuted and
there is a determination never to allow such events to happen again. Ms
Bachelet's election represents a consolidation of that attitude and moves
Chile beyond the transitional stage into a new political era.
In doing so Chile is in tune with
political shifts elsewhere in Latin America. Following recent elections,
left-wing leaders rule Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Venezuela. Bolivia
has recently joined their number and it is widely expected that Mexico
will do so in July. Ms Bachelet's victory is a reminder that there is much
diversity within this dramatic change of political allegiance in Latin
is on the moderate centre left and inherits a stable and prosperous
economy governed according to neo-liberal principles - quite unlike the
more radical Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, for example. It will be fascinating
to see how these leaders manage regional co-operation and their relations
with an increasingly alarmed United States over the next few years.
Back to index
|To the Irish Times, 17th January 2006
Peter Stringfellow should never have been granted a licence to open his licentious and sexist pole-dancing
club [in Dublin].
Its sole purpose is the inexcusable exploitation of pathetic Irish men by unscrupulous foreign women, eager to relieve them of their money simply by dancing naked.
Remember Pat Rabbitte's warning: there are 40m poles(*).
Something must be done.
(*)Pat Rabbitte, the leader of
Ireland's Labour party, has been warning about immigration of 40m Poles
Back to index
|To the Irish Times, 10th January 2006
Equalisation in Health Insurance
Simon McGuinness, in defending medical
insurance risk equalisation informs us,
“If you allow insurance companies to decide who they will insure, you
create a system which penalises the sick” through higher
premiums. Well of
But here's something else to ponder.
The supermarkets likewise penalise the hungry, the pubs the thirsty, the opticians the myopic, the energy
companies the cold, the
clothes companies the naked.
If society judges that some of these
sick, hungry, thirsty, myopic, cold, naked or
otherwise needy people should be helped out with the cost
of their needs, the appropriate mechanism is state subsidies funded
through taxation. Not through
forcing phony, trade-distorting cross-subsidies on commercial companies.
The PDs(*) of all people should know
Progressive Democrats, Ireland's most capitalist-inclined party
Item to which this letter refers ... RISK
EQUALISATION IN HEALTH INSURANCE
Madam, - Dr Ruairí Hanley (January
4th) knows nothing about health insurance if
he thinks that anyone, other than his friends in the medical profession,
will gain from the insurance free-for-all he proposes.
In the 1980s I held medical insurance
in the UK, provided by my employer. This
was under a medical insurance system which excluded
“risk-equalisation”. All my pre-existing medical
conditions were specifically
excluded from the terms of my cover. This is what happens in a
free-for-all medical insurance market - insurance companies cherry
pick who they will insure,
and who they will load, to maximise their profits.
Most people die from pre-existing
medical conditions; many Americans are
impoverished by them. If you allow insurance companies to decide
who they will insure, you create a system in which penalises the sick.
Rick equalisation is the sine qua non of a civilised medical insurance
system. Even a PD must realise that the law of the jungle is no
basis for civilised behaviour
towards our fellow citizens. - Yours, etc,
See also blogpost, Dreaming About
Risk Equalisation, Obviously
|To the Irish Times, 3rd January 2006
The Word that Dare Not
In his lengthy and contorted effort to defend the
non-use of the word homosexual (by Niall Crowley of the Equality
Authority), Declan Kelly's central point (Letters,
January 3rd) is that "a phobia is the inability to control an
irrational discomfort about something". Thus it is homophobic
to say homosexual instead of, for instance, same-sex.
This is nonsense, because phobia actually means
"a persistent, abnormal, and irrational fear of a specific thing or
situation that compels one to avoid it", from the Greek phobos,
meaning fear. Discomfort is most certainly not a phobia.
Such a dishonest misuse of words is a typical device for
trying to shut down debate when your own argument is too thin to stand on
its own. There is nothing homophobic about homosexual, which is why
many homosexuals themselves are happy to use the term. - Yours etc,
Cuddly Teddy Bears
looking for a home
Click for details
Neda Agha Soltan;
shot dead in Teheran
by Basij militia
Good to report that as at
14th September 2009
he is at least
FREED AT LAST,
ON 18th OCTOBER 2011,
GAUNT BUT OTHERWISE REASONABLY HEALTHY
Atlantic Blog (defunct)
Broom of Anger
Cox and Forkum
Carey / GUBU
Thinking Man's Guide
Victor Davis Hanson
Tales from Warri
Graham's Sporting Wk
My Columns in the
What I've recently
“The Lemon Tree”, by Sandy
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
This examines events which led to BP's 2010 Macondo blowout in
the Gulf of Mexico.
BP's ambitious CEO John Browne expanded it through adventurous
acquisitions, aggressive offshore exploration, and relentless
cost-reduction that trumped everything else, even safety and long-term
Thus mistakes accumulated, leading to terrifying and deadly accidents in
refineries, pipelines and offshore operations, and business disaster in
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
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
A horrific account
how the death
penalty is administered and, er, executed in Singapore,
the corruption of
Singapore's legal system, and
enthusiastic embrace of Burma's drug-fuelled military dictatorship
More details on my
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
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
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
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
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
“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
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.
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
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.
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
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
Click for an account of this momentous,
of March 2009
Click on the logo
to get a table with
the Rugby World Cup
scores, points and rankings.
crackling, compelling, captivating games, the new World Champions are,
England get the Silver,
Argentina the Bronze. Fourth is host nation France.
No-one can argue with
the justice of the outcomes
Over the competition,
points per game = 52,
tries per game = 6.2,
minutes per try =
Click on the logo
to get a table with
the final World Cup
scores, points, rankings and goal-statistics