Wigmore - Nov 1984: Bishop Jeremiah Newman, Garret Fitzgerald, Jack Lynch

  • 31 October 1984
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A source so reliable that I'm not sure it wouldn't be a mortal sin to doubt it tells me that Bishop Jeremiah Newman of Limerick has gone the ecclesiastical equivalent of ape-shit over the case of Cornelius Sheehan, the man who is seeking to have a charge of bigamy brought against the woman who he used to believe was his wife.
Mr Sheehan married the woman ¸or so he reasonably thought - in St Joseph's Church in Limerick in 1976. When the "marriage" broke up a couple of years back Mr Sheehan went about the restructuring of his life which is necessary in such circumstances, and in the course of so doing discovered that, legally, he hadn't been married at all. The woman he thought he had married in 1976 had already been married in 1968, the first marriage, too, having been conducted in St Joe's. That marriage had been annulled by the Roman Catholic church. But since there is no divorce in this vibrant little Catholic country of yours the annulment, of course, had no standing in civil law .

Now Mr Sheehan is attempting, in Dublin District Court, to have his "wife" charged with bigamy and will be seeking to have the priest who officiated at the '76 ceremony, Monnsignor Liam Boyle of Croom, charged as an accessory. Central to the case will be the question whether Mr Sheehan and the woman sign cd the state as well as the church register after their "marriage". What usually happens in these Church-sponsored second "weddings" is that the parties sign the Church register only. You are thus re-married in the eyes of the Church but not in the eyes of the law of the land. A solicitor friend whom I consulted tells me t.iat such a cereemony, while not illegal, wouldn't be exactly legal either. He compared its status in law with that of "pirate" radio stations.

With this in mind, I suggest that during all such ceremonies in future the Church should signal the status of the affair by having the officiating clergy person wear a black eye-patch and flying the Jolly Roger from the church steeple for the duration. So as to avoid con fusion.

Meanwhile, I gather that the wrath of the most reverend Jeremiah will be wonderful to behold if it turns out that Monsignor Boyle allowed the happy couple to sign both registers back in 1976 and thus blew the gaff on one of the cutest little stunts ever dreamed up by the imaginative Irish RC hierarchy.


BEFORE we leave the Church - not that I'd wish to delay you - let's consider the case of Dundalk woman Sheila Hodgers.

Mrs Hodgers gave birth to a preemature baby on St Patrick's Day last year in the Lourdes Hospital in Droghecia. The baby died immediately. Two days later Mrs Hodgers died. She had cancer. Her husband, Brendan, says:

"Sheila had tumours everywhere, on her neck, her legs, her spine. They had run rampant from lack of treattment." According to Mrs Hodgers's husband, doctors had refused to treat her because treatment might have damaged the foetus within her. The ethical priorities brought to bear on her case are the standard priorities in medicine in Southern Ireland.

What's different about her case is that her husband hasn't taken it quiettly. Throughout the seven months of Sheila's pregnancy Brendan was aware that his wife was desperately ill and, since she had had cancer previously, had little doubt about the nature of her illness. He had striven desperately to convince doctors to diagnose her properly and to tell himself and his wife what alternatives were available to them. He was shunted from pillar to post as his stricken wife weakened and, in her weak state, endured un imaginable pain. She was refused painnkillers in the general hospital, even when on one occasion she was literally screaming with agony. Doctors refused even to have her X-rayed to determine the extent of the illness.

There is a chance, of course, that even if everything medically possible had been done Sheila Hedgers would have died anyway. The point is that everything medically possible was not done. That apart, it is certain that Mrs Hodgers's last days could have been made immeasurably less agonised by the administration of simple painnkilling treatment.

Sheila Hodgers never asked for an abortion, nor did her husband or anyyone else ask for an abortion on her behalf. All they asked was that doctors should do their best to discover what was wrong with her and to tell them what, if anything, they could do about it.

Brendan Hodgers is now trying to take a legal case to establish the right of patients and their families to be fully informed of the patient's condiition, to be told what treatments are possible and to be consulted about which treatment is given. Money is urgently needed to process the case. A fund has been established, administered by journalist Padraig Yeates, Christine Donaghy of the Irish Family Planning Association and Mick O'Reilly, district officer of the ATGWU in Dundalk. Donations should be sent c/o the A TGWU office in Clanbrassil Street Dundalk. Cheques should be made payable to the Brendan Hodgers Legal Fund.

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IN 1977 or '78 my friend, the late, tragically talented Donal Corvin, was in a spot of bother. Not surprising really. From the day and hour I met him the Corv was always in bother. On this occasion he decided to get out of town ahead of the posse. Being broke, he wrote a £300 rubber cheque

for tickets to the States for himself and a companion.

A couple of weeks later he was seated in Doran's Bar on Second Avenue in New York discussing his perilous circumstances with a number of acquaintances. Also in the company was one Finbarr Ross, a native of Dunnrnanway in West Cork and international high-flyer. Two days after meeting the Corv, Finbarr was back in Dublin where, outraged by the COry'S having bounced a chicken's neck off a welllknown travel firm, contacted the firm to alert it to the miscreant's whereeabouts. This caused the Corv no end of additional hassle.

Around this time Finbarr was innvolved in the establishment of a bankking outfit in Gibraltar, International Investments Ltd, a complicated little operation, as these things tend to be, but basically concerned with attracting money from (mainly-Irish) investors with the promise that such deposits could earn profits virtually tax-free by taking advantage of the Rock's generous provisions in these matters. For a time International Investments prospered. So much so that when it went into liquidation earlier this year the 'amount of the "deficiency" was a mite more than the COry'S 300 lousy quid. A creditors' meeting in June was told that the deficiency was at least £512 million. It is likely that some depositors have lost their entire life savings. And many of these deposiitors would doubtless wish to speak to Finbarr about the matter.

But Finbarr seems nowhere to be found.

Well, one bad turn deserves another.

I can reveal, as we say in all the best cliches, that Finbarr is now operating from the offices of Shawnee Exploraation Ltd, in downtown Houston, Texas. The telephone number is 1611713-789-0024.

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AND still with Great Exiles Of Our Time, I am surprised at the coyness of the Sunday Indo and Press in reporting recently that motor tycoon Sean O'Shea is living "somewhere" on the Costa del Sol. As many people would like to talk to Sean as would like to talk with Finbarr.

In a further effort to facilitate international communication, interessted parties should note that Sean is domiciled in the pleasant townland of Estopone, about ten miles from Puerto Bonus. You can drop in and have a chat with Sean - he has a lovely beard now - any Friday or

Saturday night in the Grapevine Bar in Puerto.

The Grapevine is owned by Mr Matt Armstrong, ex-Belfast, whom readers might remember sprang to front-page prominence a while back with an announcement that he and an associate were about to purchase Aintree racecourse with money made from the sale of scrap metal. Sean has been telling our mutual friends that he might fly out a plane-load of his pals for a Christmas drink in the Grapevine.

If only the government would do something about social welfare sponngers the dynamic, wealth-producing entrepreneurs might not have to languish sick for home amid all that alien sunshine.

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TOWARDS the close of his very boring speech to this year's Fine Gael Ard Fheis Garret FitzGerald made a dessperate effort to invest the dreary proceedings with some spurious glaamour by invoking the names of recent Irish hero and heroine figures . . . John Treacy, Barry McGuigan, Bernaadette Groovy and so forth, a tactic reminiscent of Harold Wilson's atttempt to take personal credit for England's World Cup victory in 1966.

But it didn't occur to the outtouch FitzGerald to mention the one genuine international super-star of w hom the country can boast: the charismatic and extremely wonderful Bono, singer and inspirational leader of U2, at the moment arguably the most successful rock band in the entire world.

This is surprising, because in 1982 the selfless and idealistic Bono risked the ruina tion of his street credibility by taking part in an election picture stunt, allowing himself to be photoographed side by side with FitzGerald in a recording studio, the Fine Gael man sporting earphones as big as Mickey Mouse's ears as he pretended to listen to and get with the sounds, man.

The occasion was marked by the single best quote of that year, from Flanna Fail's Niall Andrews who opined that "Garret FitzGerald as a rocker is about as plausible as Maggie Thatcher in tie-died jeans and roller skates. "

It would have done FitzGerald no harm to have remembered the favour Bono had bestowed on him when he came to list the current glitterati of Irish life.

But then, FitzGerald just wouldn't know, would he?

NOT all of the 800 who were invited to the Burlington bash for the Smurfits managed to meet their Highnesses Michael Smurfit or his wife Norma. These poor people turned up full of hope and gleeful expectation. Imagine their surprise when they were greeted by a woman from the Smurfit organiisation who gave them a folder telling them what was on the menu and who would be speaking. No sign of Michael or Norma. And then what do you think? As they went in the door they were called aside by a little porter type while others were gladhandled by Michael and Norma. The reason? The reason is this: a number of stars were placed on each folder of each guest to indicate their relative importance. And if you didn't have enough stars, you didn't get to meet their lordships.


Man Of The Month:

Jack Lynch

DESPITE a petition pressing the claims of Superintendent John Courttney, the widely-travelled chief of the investigation section of the Garda Technical Bureau, the valuable Wigmore Person of the Month award goes this time to the famous amnesiac and former Taoiseach Jack Lynch, in recognition of his inventive address at one of the Sean Treacy commemooration ceremonies in Kilfeacle, County Tipperary, on October 14.

Mr Lynch does not receive the award for his significant contribution to the re-writing of Irish history, as evidenced in his argument to the Kilfeacle gathering that Sean Treacy was a passionate advocate of constiitutional politics and wouldn't have fired a pop-gun without a mandate from the people. Sure if I handed out my awards for reasons like that there wouldn't be a leader-writer in the land without a mantle-piece creaking with them.

No. Mr Lynch is named as Person of the Month for the extended passage in his address in which he denounced the notion that the "unitary state" is the only Forum Report option worth the consideration of nationalists. This was an open endorsement of the Garret FitzGerald position and a blunt condemnation of the position of Charles Haughey.

Personally, I don't find either posiition as attractive as that set out on page 147 of the fascinating "manual" I discovered Mr P.J. Mara perusing in the Dail bar last month (although I imagine the unitary state wouldn't be as sore on the thumbs). What I found attractive in Mr Lynch's address was its reaffirmation of traditional poliitical values.

For some time now I have been concerned about the apparent decline of personal bitterness as a factor in Fianna Fail politics. Whole weeks can pass without one hearing a friend of Mr Haughey describing Dessie O'Mallley as a "scum-bag from the arse-end of Limerick" or a friend of Mr O'Mallley dubbing the party leader "a vicious wee shite-hawk ", Somehow, the fun appeared to have gone out of it all.

I need not have worried. The vastlyypopular Mr Lynch only had to emerge from semi-retirement and make one speech to prove that relics of the oul indecency still thrive and that there are people still in Irish politics who will allow neither economic crises nor possibly-impending civil war to divert them from the real purposes of public life.

(Some members of the Wigmore think-tank have urged on me an alterrnative explanation of Mr Lynch's line on the Forum: that it was based not on personal factors but on his knowledge and understanding of naationalist and republican history and on his grasp of present political realities. But I think we can rule that out.)