The Irish border
Sir: Contrary to the assertion that the Irish border ‘only hit the headlines’ after Leo Varadkar became Taoiseach in June 2017, as Liam Halligan claims (‘Irish troubles’, 24 November), the negative impact of Brexit on the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement was clearly signalled during the referendum campaign itself, including by the Irish government and by two former British prime ministers, Sir John Major and Tony Blair.
There was no discontinuity in policy when Leo Varadkar succeeded Enda Kenny as Taoiseach, as reflected in the latter’s statement in February 2017. ‘The Irish government will oppose a hard border… This is a political matter, not a legal or technical matter. It will have to be solved by political leadership.’
Mr Halligan repeats the claim by selected experts — who are not familiar with the specifics of the Irish border — that existing technology and administrative facilitation can remove the need for any border infrastructure or controls. Yet neither the UK government nor any Parliamentary Committee at Westminster that have examined this issue have endorsed such views.
Finally, Mr Halligan asserts that the withdrawal agreement changes the constitutional status of Northern Ireland without its consent. He clearly has not read Article 1 of the relevant protocol in the withdrawal agreement which states that it is ‘without prejudice to the provisions of the 1998 [Good Friday] Agreement regarding the constitutional status of Northern Ireland and the principle of consent’.
Irish ambassador to the UK, London SW1
Sir: Referring to Jeff Bezos’s philanthropy (Any other business, 17 November), Martin Vander Weyer wonders how many more people might be helped by Mr Bezos were he to pay more in taxation. The answer, of course, is none. Any money raised would be soon squandered on daft projects such as bailing out the banks, HS2, aircraft carriers with no aircraft, gifts to Brussels and so on — the list is endless.
Braunton, North Devon
An earlier Isabella
Sir: In repeating the theory of the Queen of England’s direct descent from the Prophet Mohammed, which was explained by his father some years ago and has also appeared in Burke’s Peerage and publications in Morocco, Jacob Rees-Mogg (Diary, 24 November) neglects to make clear that the Isabella of Castile who provides an important link in the chain is not the famous queen of that name and mother of Catherine of Aragon, but the lesser-known Isabella of Castile in the previous century, sister-in-law of John of Gaunt and wife of Edmund of Langley, Duke of York.
All Cannings, Wiltshire
Sir: I am not sure Leah McLaren is right that the reason ‘British parents get so worked up about school choice is because they expect to become friends with the other parents in their child’s class’ (‘Class war’, 24 November). There were such parents at my children’s school events, of course, but whenever these needy, anxiously smiling people approached, the rest of us would quickly wander off before we could be collared. The ones who joined the ‘Friends of …’ organisations were the worst of all. In any case, by the time people send their children to school they should have all the friends they need.
Sir: In his review of my new book The Birth of Modern Theatre: Rivalry, Riots, and Romance in the Age of Garrick (Books, 15 November), Ian Kelly takes issue with the book’s underlying thesis that many of the elements of our modern theatre took shape in the mid-18th century. He writes that there is limited source material on 18th-century acting style. On the contrary, there is a huge volume of such material, including descriptions by David Garrick himself, other actors, scholars, English playgoers and foreign visitors. There is ample evidence that Garrick’s contemporaries welcomed his natural, psychologically based acting as a revolutionary departure from the then-prevalent declamatory style. He taught it to others, including the incomparable Sarah Siddons. This is why I disagree with Kelly’s claim that Georgian theatre hasn’t influenced modern acting.
Kelly challenges my conclusion that Garrick and others were celebrities in the modern sense by making the point that the word celebrity was unknown in the 18th century. And he complains that I wrote that Susannah Cibber faced an adultery lawsuit from her husband Theophilus. I didn’t. Purporting to correct me, Kelly points out that Theophilus sued not her but her lover. That’s exactly what I wrote.
In the first line of his review, he mentions that the book was written by a law professor; but even a law professor can have an in-depth knowledge of theatre and its history. In my case, I’ve been studying and writing about the Georgian era for many years. Theatrical knowledge is not just the preserve of actors.
Norman S. Poser
Professor of Law Emeritus
Brooklyn Law School, New York
Back to gammon
Sir: Your American cousin is happy to see confirmed the proper usage of the word ‘gammon’ by an estimable source, Dot Wordsworth (Mind your language, 17 November). Patrick O’Brian, in his books about the Royal Navy in the time of Bonaparte, provided many examples.
New Canaan, Connecticut