Letters: The Northern Irish educational system

It's home, not school, that keeps Ulster divided

Saturday 14 March 2009 01:00

The Northern Irish educational system is not nearly as divided as Johann Hari (Opinion, 13 march) would like to believe. He is wrong to suggest that if a student is not one of the 5 per cent to attend an integrated school then he or she is condemned to "sectarian enclaves".

I attended the Royal Belfast Academical Institution, a state grammar school. Since its foundation in 1810, the school has deliberately refused to ask about the religious beliefs of those attending. The only factor of importance was the willingness to learn. My school thus allowed me to grow up with people from Catholic, Protestant, Muslim and secular backgrounds. I have friends from all backgrounds.

Yes, there do exist schools which are almost exclusively Protestant or Catholic. But to suggest that failing to attend an integrated school sows the seeds of future sectarianism is plain wrong. Sectarianism is nurtured by Ireland's bloody history, by family experience of the Troubles, and at home. It is naive to think that the classroom can bridge the solid walls that divide the two communities. Instead, the education system should be religion-blind. Only then do you help foster tolerance of different ideas and beliefs.

Thomas Lowe

London W3

Printing money won't pay our way

Is it just coincidence that on the day that the Bank of England began printing money your columnist Jeremy Warner questions the need to maintain manufacturing industry (11 March)?

For the last decade the trade deficit has been funded with borrowing from foreign banks and selling off property and businesses in the UK into foreign ownership. When a foreign company bought a British one, we celebrated inward investment, and more than half of property in London is now in foreign ownership. Those in the areas that make products that can be traded internationally have been waiting for the UK to run out of money, knowing that financial services could never be sold to make up the gap.

But now, when foreign banks have finally stopped lending to us, we have discovered printing money. Can we really forget the need to pay our way in the world? Can we pay for foreign goods with the money we have printed and carry on as before? Or do we need to be able to pay for them with products they want to buy?

Nick Bion


Section 174 of the 2006 Companies Act details the duties of the directors as follows:

(1) A director of a company must exercise reasonable care, skill and diligence. (2) This means the care, skill and diligence that would be exercised by a reasonably diligent person with (a) the general knowledge, skill and experience that may reasonably be expected of a person carrying out the functions carried out by the director in relation to the company, and (b) the general knowledge, skill and experience that the director has.

How can the directors of RBS, HBOS, Lloyds TSB and Northern Rock be said to have met these requirements? The Act allows shareholders, subject to the agreement of a court, to sue directors for negligence, default, breach of duty or breach of trust. Why have the institutional shareholders not started such legal action? Why has no politician raised the possibility?

Robert Henderson

London NW1

The hate-mongers on our streets

I suppose we'll soon see the Luton Muslim hate-mongers back on the streets, this time bitching about Islamaphobia. An irony of their actions, which they do not seem to have considered, is that their verbal abuse being splashed all over the media will certainly send people flocking into the arms of the BNP – but perhaps I'm being naive and actually they are spoiling for a fight.

Ian Anderson


Your article concerning the Luton demonstrations (12 March) described it as a clash between anti-war protesters and "pro-war locals". It is important to emphasise that one does not need to be pro-war in order to feel anger about the actions of this tiny minority of protesters.

Many of us have never supported the war in Iraq but that doesn't mean we don't fully support the commitment and sacrifice that the men and women of our armed forces have made in our name and on our behalf. Even more so, considering the controversial nature of that conflict in Iraq.

This is a distinction that Inayat Bunglawala of the Muslim Council seems to understand perfectly and one that I hope can be reflected in any further reporting.

Charlie Brown

London EC1

The despicable manner in which our soldiers were treated by extremist Muslims during the homecoming parade in Luton illustrates the extent of hatred held against state institutions by a minority of extremists from within the British Muslim communities.

A vast section of the British public, most of whom are non-Muslims, is opposed to the war in Iraq. They have expressed their opposition to the war and have repeatedly registered their protests in a civil and democratic manner. However, the Muslim extremists chose to target the unsuspecting soldiers returning home to their loved ones, after performing their professional duties.

Whilst they may disagree with certain elements of the foreign policy, the British public, including Muslims, are proud of their armed forces, and the appalling actions of these extremists will not deter them from continuing to extend their support to the troops.

Dr Shaaz Mahboob

Vice Chair, British Muslims for Secular Democracy

London WC1

Why are we continuing to allow our troops to die in Afghanistan, defending a government whose courts can condemn a man to a life sentence for downloading an article on women's rights?

Is there any real difference between the Taliban and the religious fanatics in power? These people uphold the denial of basic human rights for women, and prove that legal systems that base themselves on religious dogma are rotten to the core.

Pete Parkins


Jews, Israelis and lobbyists

It is inaccurate and unhelpful to refer to the "Jewish lobby", as Rupert Cornwell does in the article "Israel lobby blamed as Obama's choice for intelligence chief quits" (13 March). The US pro-Israel or pro-Zionist lobby consists of both Jews and non-Jews. Conversely many Jewish people actively campaign for Palestinian rights both within specifically Jewish groups and broader campaign groups.

Janet Green

London NW5

The article on the resignation of Charles Freeman was headlined, "Israel lobby blamed as Obama's choice for intelligence chief quits". The opening sentence, however, stated, "Fears over the Jewish lobby's excess influence on US foreign policy flared anew".

At root, the failure to distinguish between Israelis, pro-Israelis and Jews is the same analytical meltdown that occurs in the minds of those who physically attack and threaten British Jews every time there is a flare-up in the cycle of violence between Israelis and Palestinians. The Independent really ought to do better.

Mark Gardner

Community Security Trust

London NW4

Antony Lerman's article "Must Jews always see themselves as victims?"(7 March) engages in pejorative stereotyping of the Jewish people. It fails to address the legitimate concerns of individuals, Jews and non-Jews alike, who recognise the rise in anti-Semitic discourse and its profoundly troubling moral and social implications.

Instead of confronting the recent sociological research that indicates high levels of irrational anti-Jewish prejudice in Europe (though, it should be noted, less so in the UK) he depicts Jews as being paranoid and self-obsessed. He irresponsibly ignores evidence of bigoted attitudes which harm the rights and well-being of a minority community.

Noam Schimmel

London School of Economics and Political Science

Red noses on Kilimanjaro

I hope that the severe challenges experienced by the celebs climbing Kilimanjaro for Comic Relief (report, 13 March) will deter others from copying them. Joined-up thinking is needed. Such jaunts will do measureless long-term damage to some of the very people Comic Relief wants to help.

Global warming is causing the snows of Kilimanjaro to shrink visibly. Al Gore stated in An Inconvenient Truth that within a decade there will be no more snows on Kilimanjaro. Tanzanians up to 250km away depend on those snows for their water supply.

Two tonnes of CO2 is emitted flying each climber to and from Tanzania. Offsetting the carbon is of minuscule help; it does not buy a licence to fly. The sponsorship raised by each person does not compensate for the tragedy which threatens Tanzanians and to which the trip contributes.

Canon Christopher Hall

Banbury, Oxfordshire

Gosh, isn't it a good job that we are all different? True, Comic Relief may not be to everyone's taste but Janet Street-Porter and Vera Lustig (letter, 12 March) appear to be missing one major point. Given that we are in the throes of a deep recession and bad news is everywhere, being silly might actually make people feel better for a while. Dignified it may not be, but thinking about someone else for a change is probably a good thing.


Charlton Kings, Gloucestershire

GM crops have nothing to offer

Simon Usborne claims that "organic farming doesn't add up" and that "nature needs GM crops" ("Don't believe the greenwash", 3 March).

Organic farming doesn't claim to be a high-output system, but rather aims to be an optimal output system, producing sufficient quantities of great-quality food without environmental or animal-welfare compromises. However, in many parts of the world, modern organic systems can, and do, produce as much or more food than both oil/chemical-based non-organic farming and traditional systems.

GM crops do not increase yields, as GM campaigners claim. In the real world, the latest, higher-yielding varieties of soya sold in the US are not GM but from normal crop breeding. As labelling of GM (which Barack Obama favours) starts to force its way into the US marketplace, the last stronghold of GM food is crumbling. This is an old technology with nothing to offer the future.

Clio Turton

Soil Association, Bristol

Not so glorious

There is one overriding reason why the Glorious Revolution should be part of the history curriculum (The Big Question, 12 March). It led to the appointment as head of state of George, Elector of Hanover. So even in 1714 British jobs could not be secured for British workers.

Arthur Pottersman

London NW3

Exceptional powers

Bridget Prentice, Minister for Justice writes (letter, 13 March) that the Coroners and Justice Bill "will be used on the rare occasion there is exceptional need". In the same way that the anti-terrorism laws are exceptionally used, and not, for example, to stop octogenarians voicing opposition to New Labour in a meeting?

David Gould

Forton, Hampshire

Wounded soldiers

Tony Heath (letter, 11 March) complains that "wounded veterans" do not get the priority they deserve. My father, who went to the trenches of the First World War at the age of 17, spent the rest of his life with his nightmares but never complained once. Thousands of people in many parts of the world suffer daily traumas because of wars instigated by irresponsible governments and fought by soldiers who chose to join the Army. They decided on a military career. If they get hurt they should not expect any special treatment.

C Cameron

Martlesham Heath, Suffolk

Sad salute

In your report (13 March) of the assault allegedly committed by Jose Mourinho, you state that his club's alibi claims him at that moment to have been "saluting Ferguson in his office". Have you inadvertently exposed a new ritual humiliation that defeated managers undergo at Old Trafford? When will the TV cameras be allowed in for the "taking of the salute"?

Chris Sexton

Crowthorne, Berkshire

Potter stars

On the subject of Harry Potter (letter, 13 March), I often used to drink at a pub in the West End of London that was a regular haunt of the late hell-raiser and cinematic legend Richard Harris, a twice-Oscar nominated actor. He was often in "high spirits". One evening a friend casually said to me: "That bloke who just slapped the barmaid's bum is a dead ringer for Dumbledore."

Gary Clark

Radlett, Hertfordshire

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