As Time Goes By - 16 May 1985

Often called "the most exclusive club of the Western establishment", the Bilderberg Group is a mixed collection of some of the world's most powerful financiers, industrialists, statesmen and intellectuals, who get together each year for a private conference on world affairs. The meetings provide an inforrmal, off-the-record opportunity for innternational leaders to mingle, and are notorious for the cloak of secrecy they are held under.

... the group usually takes over an entire hotel, which is closely watched by security guards, and the members live, eat, and drink together for three days. Wives and husbands are not innvited .... the group has met every year since 1954 except for 1976, when a Lockhead bribery scandal involving Prince Bernhard caused an embarrassed steering committee to postpone the event.

- The People's Almanac, David Wallechinsky and Irving Wallace.

Dail deputies should be supplied with the agenda of the important and secret conference being attended by the Taoiseach in New York state this weekend.

- Charles Haughey, May 8 1985.

Garret swayed to the right and took the punch on the shoulder.

The security guard cursed softly and tried to knee the Taoiseach in the crotch. But Garret's right hand was coming down like a club and the security guard ended up on the floor, his left cheek working up a nice big bruise. He spat, "Paddy bastard I" Garret just shrugged, beefed up his shoulders, flexed his braces and said, "Come on, punk, make my day."

The security guard said something nasty about Garret's mother and reached inside his jacket. Which is when I kicked him under the chin. His head made a nice clicking sound as it hit the marble floor.

Garret smiled and shook my hand.

"Good work."

"Yeah," I said, "Good work." "Lesh go back inna bar," said Garret, "drinkser on mise. Show dem prissy quiche-eaters how to enjoy demselves, goddammit t"

I shook my head. "Come on, Big Guy, let's blow this joint before we get into trouble. A w, shit." It was too late. Henry Kissinger was coming down the corridor at a rate of knots, his lips pursed and his eyes blinking. "Vat ist goink on here, ja?"

"Oh , piss off, you little four-eyed kraut," said Garret.

"Ze steerink kommittee vill hear a bout this," warned Kissinger.

"Up yours with a rusty hammer," said Garret, "Go destabilise another country, you treble-chinned neoofascist!" He took a swipe at Kissinger, who gave a little squeak and ran back down the corridor. I closed my eyes and groaned.

Peter Prendergast had warned me about the dangers of Garret getting away on his own for three days, ' about his urges on such occasions to demonstrate that he's "just one of the boys."

The occasion lent itself to that.

There were lots of lectures. Like the one with the British army brigadier with one eye, one arm, a limp and a twitch, holding forth on "the strategic importance of first-strike capacity in the event of tenant unrest in high-rise estates." Me, I couldn't see why we should take advice from such an obbvious loser, but we were all expected to sit there and pay attention.

The rest of the time we sat around in deep leather armchairs, sipping drinks and having our egos stroked by CIA and NATO types. President Mitterand's Third Secretary was connstantly making sarcastic remarks about the quality of the Californian wine supplied by the hosts. A personal advisor to Mrs Thatcher was holding open the Sun and telling a guest from Denmark that "if they don't weigh three pounds apiece I'm a bloody Dutchman."

A Senator from Arkansas was counting out several dozen largeedenomination bills into the hands of a minor member of the British royal family who occasionally acts as a consultant to the Ministry of Defence. That, in fact, seemed to be the point of the whole thing. Right through the weekend the Senator from Arkansas worked his way through selected guests, accompanied by a big man in dark glasses who every now and then passed the Senator a fistful of bills from a suitcase he was carrying.

The chief executive of a giant elecctronics multinational was handing out cards which were blank but for a series of numbers. He gave one to Garret and said he'd be delighted to build a couple of factories in Ireland. The Big Guy got really excited and gave me the card to pass on to the IDA. "I'll have them ring you as soon as I get back," he told the businessman. The guy looked puzzled, then shrugged and went away. I tore up the card later. No point having the IDA spend weeks trying to dial a Swiss numbered account.

Garret got really bored. He'd try talking economics, they'd talk money. Try talking business, they talk bribes. Try talking politics, they say they leave that to the amateurs.

Which is why the Big Guy tried to get a party going in the bar. After two Budweisers he was singing his head off and the security guard started pushing us out and we ended up having the bit of hubble-bubble with Kissinger.

When he got to the end of the corriidor Henry turned and shook a fist at us. "Ju vill pay vor dis," he barked. "Ah , shag off," said the Big Guy, "you and Hopalong." Which meant all the ass-kissing in Ballyporeen went for nothing.

I put my arm round the Big Guy's shoulder and guided him towards his room. He giggled. "Wood gork," he said. "Yeah, Big Guy," I said, "Good work." •