Diary November 1984 - Camera Shy, Mac the Knife in Baileboro, Press Freedom
THE PHOTO ON THE RIGHT shows two photographers and a spectator standing outside Bailieboro courthouse. The photographers are watching the gate at the side of the courthouse. They have been watching it for hours. It is about 1O.15pm on Friday October 19.
The stakeout of Bailieboro courthouse was one of the more interesting aspects of me garda trial resulting from the death of Peter Matthews in Shercock garda station. From the beginning of the trial the accused, Detective Garda Tom Jordan, evaded photographers. For a time it was a mystery as to how he was getting in and out of the courthouse. The photograaphers waited each day until the courthouse was locked :10 sign of Tom.
One morning two photoographers arrived outside the courthouse at 8.30am - still no sign of Tom, and he got inside by the time the trial started. By now it had beecome something of a game. It seemed like half of Bailieeboro was on the other side of the street, watching the photographers waiting for Tom. The photographers staked out the back of the cuilding as well. There was a high wall there. Eventually taey concluded that Jordan was slipping out the side gate, with the help of supporters.
On the final day of the trial everything was over at about 4.30pm and everyone came out. Except Tom. The photographers waited. The other cases finished, the courtroom was locked up, still no sign.
It was bitterly cold. It starred raining. Local kids got a few bob to slip over to the pub for sandwiches and cigarettes. At about 8pm the door of the court opened and two men ran out very fast, heading in opposite directions. They jumped into cars and disappeared. They seemed to be trying to act as decoys and draw the photoographers off, perhaps connvincing them that one of the runners was Jordan. A reliable source identified the two men as detectives. We have picctures. You, my fine lads, may have to explain what you were doing running out of a supposedly locked courthouse at 8pm. We will think long and hard about what to do with the snaps.
At about 9pm there was a phone call for the photoographers in the local pub. "Are you looking for that Jordan fella?"
"I'm just after seeing him go into the Headford Arms in Kells. "
The photographers rememmbered there was a phone in the courthouse and stayed put. They then checked the hotel in Kells - no Jordan.
At 10 pm the car in the centre of the picture backed up to the gate. The driver got out and knocked on the gate. He had a murmured conversation with someone inside. He then opened the left rear door. After a while there was a whistle. The driver started up the engine. It ran for a long time, then the driver switched it off. The photographers were still poised. At about 1 O.15pm we took a picture of the car. The driver started up the engine and drove off quickly. Half an hour after midnight the stakeout ended. It had lasted eight straight hours.
We located an old picture of Garda Jordan, but too late to get hold of it before going to press. We would appreciate it if anyone out there has any more recent efforts.
Mac The Knife Visits Bailieboro
FOR THE SAKE OF CLARIty the account of the Sherrcock case in our cover story is pared down to the essenntials, which is a pity as the trial was laden with incident and drama. Centre stage in the court was Patrick McEntee, defence' counsel for Garda Jordan. McEntee's expertise in pulling at threads of evidence until they unravel questionable stories was grippping. Unusually, witnesses were barred from the courttroom and could not hear previous witnesses. Thus it was possible to watch McEntee use one witness to dig a hole and then watch him guide a later witness gently and patiently towards the hole.
On top of the hard work of thoroughly familiarising himself with every detail of the case McEntee employed his usual dramatic style. Innstead of asking Garda Galliigan what time he left the station after the death of Peter Matthews he asked him "at what time did you flee into the night?" Simply calling a witness a no-good wasn't enough. He was "some sort of sadist, some sort of bully," pause for breath, "or a running dog of bullies," and finally, "a lickspittle of violence." That on top of the fact that the witness's evidence had been shown to be full of holes was enough to convince the jury.
In Bailieboro there was some bitterness at the verdict. Few local people attended the trial, one said he was interested but wouldn't really like to be seen taking such an interest. Consequently, those hearing bits and pieces of the evidence were surprised when Jordan was acquitted. Howwever, those who sat through the trial were in no doubt that on the evidence the jury made the only decision posssible. Which is not to say that they got anywhere near the truth.
Anyway, Paddy McEntee was great fun and very good. Bu t barristers are still overrpaid.
A FEW YEARS AGO THIS reporter moved into the house of Tom Mathews, the then cartoonist, while he was away on holidays. Somewhere in the house lay The Novel. Mathews, as everyone who knew him was aware, was indulging in a Novel and had been at it for years. Some day it would be finished and Tom Mathews would take his place among the nations of the earth. But at this point it had not been completed and only a few had seen only a little of the book, written out on scraps of paper in Mathews' awful handwriting. Was the novel any good? That was the question.
Mathews' house was unntidy, to say the least. And this did not help this reporter in his frantic searches at all hours of the day and night for Mathews' novel, which must have lain hidden away somewhere in the dark reaches of the house. By the time Mathews came back, the quest had been abandoned and Mathews' novel would remain unread for several years more.
Mathews' novel was pubblished last week by Ward River Press at £3.95. It is called "Levon " which is, as the more astute reader will realise, "Novel" spelt backkwards. Mathews, you see, has always been a clever fellow.
Clever he may be, but in one respect at least he is slow. It has taken him eleven years to write a very short novel. What is it about? "Futility, pointlessness," Mathews says. "It is intended to be an amusement, a funny book." He says that the book came in bursts over the eleven years but hopes to have the next one finished in three years. "There are," he adds, "plenty of one-liners, some two liners and other lines of different length." There is no dirt in the book, maybe he's keeping that for the next one. "Dirt is too easy.," he says, "and there's quite enough of it already." Too true.
It's a book in the English tradition of humour, he says, full of whimsy and puns. A woman he knows has read it, he points out, and the middle made her dizzy. God only knows what it's going to do to the rest of us.
Freedom Of The Press
AN ISSUE OF "THE CRANE Bag" devoted to the media in Ireland will be launched next week. "The Crane Bag" is a journal which devotes each issue to an exhaustive study of a single topic.
One of the ideas for the media issue was to get the editors of the national newsspapers together and ask them questions. This seemed like a really good idea, but it didn't work. There was no single time at which they were all available; one of them wasn't interested at all; one of them would only relay messages' through his secretary; another couldn't be found; another was willing to cooperate.
"The Crane Bag" works in strange ways. When they do an interview they send the transcript to the subject in case he or she wants to make any changes. Thus they sent one interview with an editor to some of the other editors to elicit comments on it. Imagine their surprise when an irate phone call came from one editor whose absences from the office had been the subject of a mild joke in the transcript. Take it out or I'll sue, said the editor. So much for freedom of "The Crane Bag".
Then there was the editor who made nasty remarks about the Taoiseach. He desscribed Dr FitzGerald using two four-letter words, neither obscene but both insulting and when he went and thought about it he had second thoughts. It is unclear whether "The Crane Bag" acceded to his wishes or not. We all wait with bated breath.
Among the other contribuutors to the media issue of "The Crane Bag" are Peter Feeney on RTE; Julian Vignoles on music and the media; Fintan O'Toole on the arts; John Horgan on censorrship; Michael D. Higgins on stereotypes in the media and loads more.