Letters: Shameful legacy of the Troubles

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In the House of Commons, David Cameron apologised to the Finucane family on behalf of the Government and "the whole nation".

While I sympathise with the Finucane family, and deplore what happened to Pat as a result of actions by officers of the Government, I feel that Mr Cameron is merely trying to deflect the blame for this awful event. I have no need to apologise for what happened. I have never voted for the party that was in government in 1989, and I had no part in the decision that was taken by someone – quite probably at a senior level in government.

What Mr Cameron really ought to have said is that his predecessors in the government of this country have committed an illegal and immoral act which demeans all those who have held senior positions since, and that he will ensure that the police investigate the matter thoroughly, and bring to account not just those who committed the murder, but the people in power who actually made the decision and made sure that the murder was carried out.

John Broughton

Broad Haven, Pembrokeshire

So the De Silva report confirms what the dogs and cats in the streets of Belfast knew – that the security forces colluded at various times and to varying degrees with loyalist paramilitaries, and specifically in Pat Finucane's murder.

The act of murder was horrific by any standards of humanity, and was sadly all too common during the dark days of the Troubles. The outcome of the report is entirely unsatisfactory and will lead, almost inevitably in my view, to a full public inquiry. Cameron's contortions are an affront to our intelligence and serve no useful purpose, as Geraldine Finucane's response has made abundantly clear.

However, I have an issue. It seems to me that the book is closed on the Troubles, except where the British Government is to be held to account. The impression taking hold is of the Troubles being caused by the misdemeanours of the British Government and its agencies, principally the Army and the RUC. Events such as Bloody Sunday and the murder of Pat Finucane are at the very top of the hierarchy of atrocity.

For those who lived through the Troubles on the British side, this just won't wear. We have a former IRA commander as Deputy First Minister (who is doing a splendid job and has shown enormous courage) and yet we are still expected to watch the ritual humiliation of the British Government, a Government which has ploughed countless millions into Northern Ireland in order to achieve the measure of stability the natives now enjoy.

I await the public inquiry with a weary sense of inevitability.

Jim Stanley


How definitions of marriage have changed

Luckily we all have the freedom to avoid David Negus's 45-minute sermons (letter, 13 December). And he (whatever denomination he belongs to) would have had the freedom to avoid celebrating a same-gender marriage.

He promises a sermon about the Bible's teaching on sodomy. Is he going to refer to Genesis 19:5, for that's where the word comes from? But the intended victims in Sodom were angels, which makes it irrelevant to any discussion about same-gender human relations.

And too much of the discussion does misuse the Bible. I find it difficult, if not impossible, to construct a theology of marriage from the Bible. Jesus may have gone to a wedding as a guest, but he only speaks about divorce and about there being no marriage in heaven. Much of what is often quoted comes from sources such as the Book of Common Prayer which only began its genesis in 1549 and doesn't quite claim divine inspiration.

Marriage has meant so many different things at various times and in various cultures. I see no reason why in our time it should not be open to same-gender couples, and I want the Church of England to have the freedom to offer God's blessing on the relationships of those who want it.

There is still a tremendous amount of prejudice around same-gender relationships from a steadily decreasing number of people, but prejudice undergirded by a literalistic reading of the Bible is particularly pernicious.

Canon Keith Hugo


Marriage services for same-sex couples have existed down the ages, as John Boswell's work Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality demonstrates.

There is an early Russian icon showing Christ sanctifying a marriage between two men, and Boswell discovered that "in addition to heterosexual marriage ceremonies in ancient church liturgical documents (and clearly separate from other types of non-marital blessings of adopted children or land) were ceremonies called, among other titles, the Office of Same Sex Union (10th and 11th century Greek) or the Order for Uniting Two Men (11th and 12th century)."

So it's only in the recent past that the churches have decided that marriage is uniquely defined as being a union of a man and a woman.

Manda Scott

Clungunford, Shropshire

If the Government succeeds in getting its legislation to permit same-sex marriage, such couples will have the choice of marriage or civil partnership. This choice will not be available to mixed-sex couples, which seems discriminatory. Surely, if marriage is to be redefined, so should civil partnership, as a relationship open to those who cannot get married, such as two siblings.

D W Budworth


Gender equality in Middle-earth

What a bitter and sad world Grace Dent must live in ("Want to make it as a female Hobbit in Middle-earth? Turns out there's a glass ceiling there too", 12 December). Out in the real world there are women who can quite happily watch a film without it having a strong female character – it isn't actually essential. Altering a plot to insert one is tokenist and patronising.

And before I get accused of being part of "the patriarchy" I speak as somebody who does the shopping, half the cooking, half the laundry, most of the cleaning, the school run for my grandson, yes and even the ironing. I plan Christmas, love it when the kids are off, buy thoughtful and fun presents, and choose all my own clothes! I took years out of work to look after the kids, loved every minute of it, sacrificed promotions happily.

People like Grace Dent claiming that nothing has changed and wanting a world where even movies should be vetted for "equality" are just as big a hurdle to a well-balanced world as the people she dislikes.

Terry Bunn

Bewdley, Worcestershire

Ordinarily I find it hard to disagree with anything written by Grace Dent. But her views on The Hobbit seem to miss a couple of points. It is The Hobbit in the singular, with very few of even walk-on parts for others of the species of either gender. And the gender of the central character, Bilbo Baggins, has been fixed by his appearance in the narrative sequel filmed 10 years ago.

Ms Dent is, however, right in one sense: Peter Jackson has failed to take the opportunity to make some of the 12 dwarves female. As every Tolkien nerd knows, female dwarves are as hirsute as the male and, to other eyes, completely indistinguishable and equally heroic.

Philip Brindle


Teaching physicists

Lord Adonis states that the best universities should devote places to teaching and that three of our top five – Imperial College, University College London and the London School of Economics – do not train a single teacher between them (Chalk Talk, 22 November).

Whilst sympathising with the underlying sentiment, it is incorrect to say that Imperial does not engage in teacher training. We, in the Physics Department, have been concerned about the shortage of physics graduates who become teachers.

We have, in collaboration with Canterbury Christ Church University (who are specialists in initial teacher training), established a Physics with Science Education undergraduate degree that graduates students in three years with a professionally accredited physics degree, together with Qualified Teacher Status. We have also run a successful undergraduate schools-based course for a number of years.

Martin McCall

Professor of Theoretical Optics

Imperial College London

Google's face of capitalism

Unlike Starbucks, who are vulnerable to consumer pressure, Google and Amazon are tougher nuts. Both are much larger and almost monopolistic – try touching your keyboard without them appearing! So the aggressive stance of Google's Eric Schmidt on corporation tax is hardly surprising – why feel sorry for "those British people"?

And yes, minimising tax liability is just capitalism – but the scale of both their operations is breathtaking, and both are draining business from would-be competitors at a colossal rate. So their position is socially and morally open to question. It's not even a gnat bite to an elephant, but we are suspending our Google AdWords account.

Ian Bartlett

Results Marketing and Training Ltd, East Molesey, Surrey

Good for Herr Schmidt. He has shown up the silliness of anything voluntary about paying tax. Instead of the bleating about those who avoid tax within the law, the Government needs to remove all such options and make the law simple, explicit and, above all, enforced. Even if it means for one moment that Mr Cameron should get out of bed with big business.

Dr Tim Lawson

Cheam, Surrey

Acts of Union for repeal

The European Commission needs to brush up on British history before it insists that an independent Scotland would have to reapply for EU membership. The UK was created in 1707 by the Acts of Union of the kingdoms of England and Scotland. Scottish independence would mean the repeal of those Acts, and a return to the two kingdoms. Both would be successor states of the UK and should be treated in the same way.

David Wilkie

Woking, Surrey

If he felt so strongly about flying the Union Flag in Northern Ireland, the loyalist in your photograph (12 December) might have bothered to check that his flag was the right way up.

Michael O'Hare

Northwood, Middlesex

No bones about it

I'm sure that your report on "Plans for £100m DNA database" (11 December) was in good faith when it spoke of "bone fide health professionals". Maybe you were thinking of orthopaedic surgeons rather than gene scientists.

David Hasell

Thames Ditton, Surrey