Wigmore December 1984 - Des O Malley and Margaret Thatcher

  • 30 November 1984
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I AM delighted to note that the madly-gay champagne sparkle of nightlife in downtown Boyle, Roscommon, has not been affected by the rumoured recession.

On the morning of Saturday 10 November at approximately 1 am Garda Gallagher was proceeding in a northerly direction along Elphin Street, possibly indulging fond thoughts of his close friend Sgt Tully, when he happened to notice a desperate rake of cars parked outside Tarpey's licensed premises.

"Odd," thought Garda Gallagher, who is no fool, to himself. Very odd.

When from within he heard the sound of happy voices raised in innoocent, joyous conversation, the pleasant gurgle of Guinness making its bubbling way down open throats, the faint sound of an old corne-all-ye gently essayed.

And then he looked more closely at the desperate rake of cars. And noted the licence numbers. One of these was the number on the car of ... blond, Presentation Brothers boy and sometime controversialist Sean Doherty from nearby Cootehall.

Two of the other cars were owned by sons of Garda Gallagher ....

Not, perhaps, since Abraham was urged by a mischievous deity to bump his off-spring off in order to win a place in paradise has a man faced such an awkward dilemma. But Garda Gallagher did not hesitate. Sharp rap on the front door and an entry was effected. "What'll ye take, guard?" quipped one optimist.

"Names," the stern upholder of the law responded. And did. Including the names of his sons. But not the name of Sean Doherty. Mr Doherty wasn't present, which I must say rather spoils the fun. But his wife Maura (hiya, Maura!) was on the premises and had her name duly inscribed in the book of possible judgement.

The 30-40 imbibers had gathered to say a long farewell to popular local priest Neil Connolly, shortly to depart for distant Brazil. The function had been organised by the local water sports club.

Will charges be brought, I ask myself. And then I ask, should charges be brought?

Surely not.

* * *

IF it wasn't for the times that are in it we'd have devoted at least an evening's muttering to Dessie O'Malley as a possible winner of the Person of the Month Award, in recognition of his mesmeric speech on Novem ber 23 at a meeting organised by the Cork Chamber of Commerce.

Calling on the government to "negotiate sensibly" with Atlantic Resources and Gulf Oil, Dessie argued passionately that any oil off Irish shores should be sucked out without a moment's delay: "Ireland needs the confidence and the cash flow of early oil production. Chevron needs the cash flow, however limited, after its recent expensive purchase of Gulf Oil, and last but not least, a brave little Irish company, Atlantic Resources; that has spent 13 40 million delving into the great unknown of the Irish offshore, deserve our encouragement too."

Touching stuff. What intrigued me was my memory of what Dessie was saying on this issue back in August last year - when he was Fianna Fail spokesman on energy. Speaking in the Dail he said: "The government must not be stampeded into hasty agreeements based on short-term consideraations, either to suit the commercial expediences of those who are party to the casino-like activities of the stock market or to suit the short-term political considerations of a strained economy . . . There can be a great temptation to get things on the move very quickly without careful consiideration .... "

A temptation so great that it appears Dessie himself has been unable to resist it.

* * *

THERE is a distinct possibility that Dr FitzGerald will retire from public life at a date which will give the next Fine Gael leader time to play him or herself in before a general election.

* * *

MUCH as it pains me, I must bring to the attention of the populace the fact that our great and good leader Garret has abandoned yet another of his crusades. How majestically did our good knight ride out to the fray, armour rattling, sword held aloft, jerking the reins and through gritted teeth grunting, "Giddyap, Dick!" as his moustachioed mount shuffled forrward. Alas and alack, the infidels roared "Boo!" and our hero and his not-so-trusty steed bolted.

Not many months have passed since the press was called to Leinster House to hear the announcement of another crusade. Milk, said our leader, drink milk. The country was brimming with milk and he wanted us to sup up. Milk would henceforth be served in pubs. Milk cocktails, they would be. Our leader sucked his milk cocktail and many wise and witty speeches were made about the dawning of the milk age. Garret himself pulled the first pint of milk in the Dail's Visitors' Bar and we were promised that ere long the tits of the nation's cows would be sore as the crusade gathered momentum.

Alas, and indeed alack, it was only last week that we bellied up to the bar in the Dail and said, "Hit me with a Garret Special." Sorry sir, we don't do that any more, never took off. But had not Garret told the nation that he would ensure that henceforth every bar in the land would pour forth this luscious substance, that whatever about the honey the land would flow with milk? And here, in the very heart of democracy, the bar in Leinster House, the crusade had been abanndoned. Shame.

Woman of the month

I CAN'T for the waning life of me understand the whinging complaints about Margaret Thatcher's performance at her post-Summit press conference. I thought she was absolutely marrvellous. She's Wigmore's Woman of the Month, no question.

She gave straight answers to straight questions. She even gave straight answers to crooked questions. So what's wrong with that? Are we now so used to havering, wavering and dishonest dissembling from political leaders that we instinctively suspect someone who doesn't go in for devious drivel? I suppose we must be.

The case for Ms Thatcher was so overwhelming that the advisory thinkktank took a mere few hours to dismiss the claims of Willie O'Neill, chairman of Irish Shipping at the time it hired nine cargo ships to wander the oceans of the world, holds empty and crewed by Indian and Chinese sailors, at a cost of X zillion quid to the Irish taxxpayers. I understand that the Republic of Ireland is now enormously popular with friends and relatives of the sailors in Canton, Bombay, Hangchow and various villages along the Yangzte , where the selfless beneficience of the tax-payers of this little country of yours is now spoken of in hushed, awed and even disbelieving tones.

Indeed I'm told that the conversaation in the well-known Amritsar nighttclub "Ghandi's" would bring tears of joy to the flinty eyes of those conncerned about Ireland's image abroad. Sailors home on leave from the proud tricolour-flying vessels would at first be greeted with deep scepticism when they explained their present work situation, with much muttering of phrases such as "Would you go on away out of that," "Pull the other one, it's got bells on," and so forth. But gradually this would give way to unbounded admiration and gratitude directed towards this green and farraway land. Glasses of foaming dhablis would be fervently raised in toasts to "The Paddies!" And many's the Nanching spot-welder wife of an Irish Shipping deck-hand has welcomed the husband home for the weekend with a merry cry of "God bress Ireland!"

So there was a case for Mr 0 'Neill.

But not one which outweighed the arguments in favour of the magnificent Mrs T.

Given even shorter shrift was Fianna Fail Defence spokesman Noel Treacy who is currently attempting to arrange a re-run of the Battle of Baltinglass by shouting the odds about me apppointment by Paddy Cooney of a mate of Alan Dukes' to a job at the Curragh Camp. (Some mates of my own have been given secure positions in the Curragh but I swear I had nothing to do with it.) Anyway, it will be reecalled by people with nothing better to occupy their minds that in 1950 Labour Minister Liam Kavanagh's uncle Jim Everett, then Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, appointed one of his supporters to a subship in the Wicklow village of Baltinnglass in preference to a local woman whose Fianna Fail-voting family had held the post for years. There were scenes of wild excitement and high dudgeon in the vicinity for months as the appointee was boycotted and shrieks of outraged protest rent the placid air. Eventually, Everett's favouurite resigned - but not before the controversy had soured many supporrters of the first inter-party government. The affair contributed significantly to the fall of that government. I do not entirely rule out the possibility that the present coalition will evenntually fall not on its wheedling subbservience to the British on the issue of the North nor yet on its appalling incompetence and mendacity on ecoonomic matters but over the appointtment of a clerical officer in the NCO section of the Army at the Curragh.

Mr Treacy will be made Wigmore Man of the Month as soon as this happens.

But for the moment he's no match for Mrs Thatcher. At her press connference she was asked a general question about the Forum Report. She gave the straightest answer I have heard from a politician in months to any question about the North. She deliivered an admirably brief and exact account of the three constitutional options spelled out in the Report and said that each of them was "out". No fudge or flummery, no dodging, weaving or fancy-dan footwork. Each of them was "out".

There has been much ado in preedictable places - Irish Times editorials, for example - about the tone of Mrs Thatcher's press conference perforrmance. ("Unmannerly" . . . "schoollmarm-type sarcasm" ... "seemingly impenetrable wall of stubborness.") I thought her tone was just right. Perfectly pitched in fact. In the Forum Report the four constitutional nationaalist parties had sought some share of sovereignty over the North. Any sharing of sovereignty would clearly involve a diminution of Britain's sovereignty. And Mrs Thatcher has never said anything or caused anyone else to say anything on her behalf or with her authority, which could possibly be construed to mean that she was willing even to contemplate the possibility of such a course. In the week after the publication of the Forum Report James Prior said that it amounted to a series of quack cures. In the week after his appointment as Northern Secretary Douglas Hurd pronounced it a dead duck. They didn't use this language, of course. They used fluffy phrases assembled into sentences each of which conntained at least one conditional suborrdinate clause and the sentences arrannged into paragraphs which began alternately with "however" and "neverrtheless".

That is, they used the type of lannguage the Irish Times likes to hear from British politicians talking about the North. But what they meant was clear enough to anyone genuinely concerned to understand. But Dr FitzGerald didn't understand. So he had to be told, and in language which left no room for creative Irish Timessstyle interpretation.

That was telling him, Mrs T! And for this service you have rendered Dr FitzGerald may I, on behalf of a grateful bit of a nation, present you with this month's magnificent Wigmore Woman of the Month trophy?

I may? And now how about a nice cup of tea?