Diary, 15 Nov 1984: Take Your Leader To Me, Editor hits out

  • 14 November 1984
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The local Photographer was lining them up: the local party activists, the councillors, the two TDs and the Taoiseach. It was Friday November 9 and Garret FitzGerald was beginning his tour of the country to explain the National Plan to the people of Ireland. The guards and the security men were waiting outside the Cashel Palace Hotel while Garret walked around a back room shaking and presenting scrolls to three members of Fine Gael for "a lifetime of outstanging service to Fine Gael." The Party would like to acknowledge," the scroll went on, "this contribution and recognises the importance of such work in the preservation of democracy in this country."

The press met Garret in a downstairs bedroom of the hotel where the Taoiseach was to have something to eat . The me was lighting; there was a bowl of fruit on a side table which included strawwberries; Garret was having tea and smoked salmon on brown bread with beef sanddwiches. He hoped we didn't mind his combining his press conference with his supper. First, the burning issues of the day were to be discussed. Did Garret think that everyyone in Fine Gael should follow his example and leave the anti-apartheid movement? No he didn't. He held a beef sandwich in his hand while the next question was being asked and just as it ended he took five quick bites and I· polished the sandwich off.

Was he going to leave every other organisation in which Sinn Fein had memmbers? He said he couldn't think of any. Fitzwilliam Tennis Club was mentioned, but he said he was only an honorary member of that. (No one mentioned the Cathoolic church.) In one big gobble Garret devoured a piece of smoked salmon on brown bread. Family Planning, the men from the daily newsspapers had come all the way from Cork and they were going to get Garret to say something about something. What about Family Planning? Wasn't in the National Plan, Garret pointed out. What about trading with Libya? How did he feel about that? Was he going to go to Libya? But Garret, being Garret, wasn't going to answer any questions about what he was going to do. He didn't know

what he was going to do. Wouldn't like to comment at the moment, have to examine that, legal advice, hadn't been discussed by the government yet, hope to deal with it in the near future. He then ate a whole sandwich in three decisive bites. It's amazzing what a man can do.

Brendan Griffin TD came into the room and he and Peter White, the party's brand new Press Officer, attempted to get Garret to eat up, stop talking and come with them. Garret was busy trying to eat another beef sandwich and tell the story about the time he left his pyjamas in Copennhagen and the time he left his watch in Carrickmacross and how he did not buy a return ticket from Delhi and how he slept for thirteen and a half hours in his daughter's house in England when he reeturned.

Garret then went to see the nuns. He was addressing a meeting in the convent hall so this was really just a matter of courtesy, or so Garret thought. The Presenntation nuns in Cashel had a different idea. What they had planned for Garret was someething like an ambush. The nuns wanted a new school. They all stood in a row lookking at Garret while Sister Claude explained politely and firmly that they wanted a new school. Garret said he would talk to Gemma about it and Sister Claude made reference to the witnesses in the room and then pointed to the ceiling to make clear that the Man Above was listening as well.

The hall was full and there were only a few seats left at the front. Garret counted the few seats and said there were twelve. "Twelve," he said to the chairman and appointed to the front seats. Several Presentation nuns came up the hall and occuupied the seats. The chairman spoke in those mellow tones used only by band leaders Cl to tell us it's the next dance.

All questions have to be related to the National Plan, he said. Garret, he added, "wants "to convince us that what he is doing is totally correct. "

Garret's talk was accommpanied by slides outlining the objective of the National Plan. Roads, education, social welfare, there was no end to what the Coalition was going to do.

The first questions came from the back of the hall, Garret would answer them in fours. They related to farm tax, career guidance ("I will talk to Gemma Hussey early next week about career guiddance," Garret said), decentraalisation, more farm tax, dollars, the Enterprise Allowance Scheme ("I will talk to Ruairi Quinn about the Enterprise Allowance Scheme next week," Garret said), the need for an open university, there was considerable opposition to the proposal to liberalise the licensing laws, what about side roads, a man asked (there would be no money spent on side roads, Garret made clear, all money was to be spent on primary roads), local government ("Anyone with any ideas on the future of local government write to me on a postcard "), what about V AT on tourism, what about dissadvantaged areas? What about the public service? What about Bula? ("The Tanaiste and myself are dealing with the matter and I can't say any more.")

He tried to answer every question in as much detail as he could. He had written down the names of the quesstioners and he rab bited on as though he were on Today Tonight or at a press connference. He attempted to say "administrative simplicity"; he shouldn't even try to say this; he swallowed every vowel along the way. He was dying to explain things to people and it seems such a pity that he is so eager to explain things and so bad at doing them.

When Sister Claude, for it was she, put her hand up the microphone was brought to her and she began by conngratulating Garret on ..i his support for the Third World and specifically mentioned Ethiopia, there was applause.

She explained that 154 years previously, three sisters had arrived in Cashel from the Presentation Order on this very day and how after our own famine the nuns had founded a laundry to give employment to women. The building they taught in nowaadays, she explained, was built just after the famine and they could not educate children in such buildings and "we will have to close down if someething isn't done about our school," she said. £150,000 had been collected locally for the school. Everyone was on her side. Garret in his reply pointed out that it was difficult to build a commuunity school without the VEC agreement (which the nuns haven't got), but he would still mention the matter to Gemma Hussey. "

The chairman said that it was getting late and they would all need a drink before they closed. But it was half eleven by the time the votes of thanks to Garret had been delivered and by the time the nuns had been thanked for the hall. But one of the party members said there wouldn't be any problem about getting a drink in Cashel at that time of the night, laws or no laws. But Garret wasn't going to taste the delights of after-hours drinking, he was going straight back to Dublin.

Editor Hits Out

FOR THE PAST FEW months Mr Vincent Jennings has been writing a column in his newspaper The Sunday Press. It is called Comment and it is full of Mr Jennings' views. Suffice it to say that these views are extremely conntrary and highly cranky. They are full of vitriol. Two of the headlines on Sunday Novemmber 11 are typical of Mr Jennings' style: Another Fine Mess and Having It Both Ways. And underneath this Mr Jennings will rant on full of sound and fury, railing against the Fine Mess and disagreeing vehemently at the notion of Having It Both Ways.

Last Sunday, however, Mr Jennings wrote a third piece and this was an attack on "Morning Ireland", Radio l's new current affairs show. This writer is totally in symmpathy with Mr Jennings. Mr Jennings is right. Come home Vincent all is forgiven. He is not a crank after all, he is a nice man pushed to the edge of sanity by outrage and viciousness. He doesn't like the music - he is right. The music is awful. Good man Vincent for pointing this out. But the worst is yet to come. The two presenters say "Good morning" at the same time at about a quarter past nine. "Surely it would be quite enough for one of the presennters to say goodbye," quoth Mr Jennings. This is the truest thing he ever said. These two fellows David Davin Power and David Hanly must stop saying good morning in uniison. They must stop. It is driving most people in this country out of their minds and how lucky this madddened section of the popuulation is to have such a fine spokesman in Mr Jennings.


As Time Goes By - 15 Nov 1984

Armed robbery in progress ... sea surplus store . . . corner of People's Drive ...

The wheels were spinning on Hill Street.

Hill and Renko answer a domestic cisturbance call that turns into a hostage situation. Lucy Bates and Joe Coffey are picking up the pieces after a stick-up. JD and Washington are setting up a drug buy in a seedy hotel. Joyce Davenport is trying to get a stay of execution for a client who killed a nun and she's not going to ake it.

Meanwhile, the hostage situation is deteriorating and Howard's stormmtroopers are tossing CS into the apartment and hot lead into the perp - who is blown away as one of Howard's snipers shouts, "Gotcha, you sonovaa, drch ", While the TV news cameras catch it all ...

Fay is annoying Jablonski and he's trying not to pop her one. Irwin from the DA's office is bitching to Furillo bout how he has reassigned a bunch of attorneys to process the prelirniinary appearances on a shoal of minor drug busts and now you say it's been postponed? The new guy whose name we're not yet familiar with needs a PD rronto and he asks Davenport to supervise a plea bargain with a suspect who has information to trade.

And there was a knock on the door. Judas Priest.

I rolled off the sofa, backed up to tile door, keeping both eyes on the set, released the catch, went back and flopped down again.

"Eh , sorry to, eh . . .", said Garret FitzGerald. .

I waved an arm for silence, pointed :0 two chairs and my visitors sat down.

Henry was blowing up. Henry Golddnever recovered from the 1960s. There he was, peace and love and social progress and he becomes a cop beceause he thought he could make a difference. And now he's on the Hill, trying not to drown in the filth, trying to believe that his principles still mean something, looking down over the barrel of his snubnose and trying not pull the trigger and take out the bastard who raped Rachel and he know if he can do it.

'This is really quite important", said  Alan Dukes.

I got off the sofa again and got a couple of cans of beer from the fridge, dropeed them on the table. "Button it scumball."

Back at the Stratford Hotel the drug buy has gone sour and three hairrbags are waving guns around and Mick Belker is pulling his weapon and screaming you don't wanna die ...

Garret FitzGerald snapped the ring off his beer can and took a swig. Dukes asked if he could please have a glass.

* * *

Knew I shuddena done it. Back in June, when the Cabinet asked me to help them out in handling the Reagan visit, I thought it. was a oneeoff, a nice piece of money. The hell with credibility, I've been shuffling down the straight and narrow as long as Henry Goldblum and what do I have to show for it? Zilch, the big zero, a whole heap of empty. So, let's live a little.

So, I took the folding green and did a snow job for the Cabinet and before you can say TenTrouble I'm a National Handler. Oh, the money is good, and the state car is free, and you could have a seat in the Senate, if you wanted a seat in the Senate, but . . . dammit, being a National Handler takes it out of you. Do you know how mind-mincingly boring it is to sit in a drawing room (a drawing room, no kidding) in Donnybrook, sipping sherry and trying to look half-interested in Jim Dooge's opinions? Let me tell you about Jim. Jim, aw heck, listen, in the dim distant past I would on occasion get blitzed out of my mind on· Jameson and connduct lengthy conversations with lamppposts. Let me tell you, compared with Jim, well, let's just say that a lampppost can throw some light on a subbject.

Peter Prendergast is tolerable, though it's hard to get him to sit still for a minute, what with him having to spoonfeed all those political corrrespondents (they never get stories, they get briefings).

As for Derry Hussey, don't start me on Derry Hussey.

All of this is bad enough, but once they're paying your rent these guys think they can drop in every time they've got something they can't handle (and with this crowd, that's a lot of every times) and you're supposed to give them your undivided attention. Screw that for a game of cowboys.

The three hairbags have dropped their weapons and Mick Belker and JD put the cuffs on them and give them a toss. Across town, Lucy Bates and Joe Coffey - and, hey, isn't Lucy, I mean, you wanna talk women, that Lucy

Bates, man, she's broken bottle time. I mean, me, I'd crawl across broken bottles for a Hi from Lucy Bates. Davenport, Fay, that new detective (Myra, that it?), they're just backkground. Long nights I spend dreaming of Lucy putting away her nightstick and telling me to assume the position. Someday Lucy and me are going to get married and adopt Mick Belker, right?

"It's been a long day," said Alan Dukes, "and ... "

I looked across at him. "Arnscray." "Alan, please," said Garret, "would you mind waiting in the car for a moment." This FitzGerald ain't as dumb as he looks.

* * *

During the commercial break Garret told me his problem. Barry Dessmond's Contraception Bill. "Don't pay it," I cracked. No, he said, Oliver J. and Alice Glenn are revolting. "Listen," I told him, "I do the jokes around here."

He told me about how he was being squeezed over this contraception stuff. Obviously Henry Goldblum ain't the only one having problems with his principles.

So, I tell Garret on this one he's between a rock and a hard place. How about maybe he just does what he thinks is right? He looked at me the way I'd looked at Dukes a while back. So, I told him the only way out of this was to create a diversion. Like maybe, say - what could it be - maybe resign from the Anti-Apartheid Movement, something to make a headline. That will do for a few days, then I'll think of something else. Say you're resigning because the Provos are affiliated. "But, what if someone asks why I didn't resign before?" Who, I asked him? Who's going to ask an awkward quesstion like that, the political corresponndents?

On the screen, Henry was booking the rapist on minor charges, putting him away for a while. He's still wonndering if he should have killed the guy. Furillo is worried about that TV film of the sniper shouting Gotcha. He decides to leak a story to the press, get them onside.

Garret thanked me for the beer and the handling and saw himself out. "Let's be careful out there," I called after him. "Let's do it to them," came the reply, "before they do it to us." •