Wigmore October 1981

Garret, the Garda Review and senator Sean O'Leary

GARRET FITZGERALD and a group of friends recently went on holiday to Skibereen, where they stayed at a holiiday home owned by Tony O'Reilly. We understand that the facilities at the holiday home were offered and acceppted without charge of any kind. Noobody seems to think there is anything improper about this. But were Tony O'Reilly to give, say £ 1,000 to Garret FitzGerald, as a gift, would questions not be raised? And what is the diffference between giving a gift in cash or in kind. The fact is that we have very lax standards of behaviour by our public officials here. It ought to be quite unacceptable that the Taoiseach would accept any substantial gift from any private individual, especially someeone who is in a position to benefit from Government decisions, as O'Reilly is for instance on the issue of prospecting oil licences, to name but one of many possible potential beneefits that might accrue to O'Reilly from close association with senior Governnment office holders - this is not to say that this was O'Reilly's intention or indeed that Garret FitzGerald would not bend over backwards in the oppoosite direction.

THE GARDA REVIEW, which beecomes shriller and shriller from issue to issue demanding yet more repressive measures against "subversion" etc, conntains in one of its recent issues an attack on the writer of this column in the form of a letter from Sergeant Martin Crotty B.L.. of the Planning Section of Garda HQ. The letter, pubblished with the obvious approval of the editor of Garda Review, fails to deal with any of the points recently raised in this column about recent Garda behaviour. We enquired why there had been no enquiry by the Garda authoriities into the copious and independent allegations of Garda misconduct at the infamous Embassy riot on Saturday, July 18. Sergeant Crotty doesn't even mention this point. We went on to state that there was an obligation on the press to maintain an adversary relationship with all the major power cen tres in our society, including the police force. That in the latter case this was particularly important, for the police were accorded very considerable powers in our society vis-a-vis the ordinary citizen and there was very little check on how these powers were operated. Sergeant Crotty by implication accuses us of issuing innuendoes, half-truths and misrepresenntations but again fails to give any conncrete examples. Perhaps he would like to grapple with the following: over the last few months there has been a new rash of complaints about Garda bruutality; what are concerned mem bers of the force like himself doing about it? Also, what did he or his association or indeed any member of his force at a senior level do about the scandal of the fingerprint affair, where two senior Garda officers fabricated fingerprint evidence against an innocent person for the murder of the British ambasssador, and then when the fabrication was exposed there was a concerted cover up of the scandal at all levels of the force, the two officers who exxposed the fabrications were victimised and the chief culprit involved in the affair was recently promoted? Are these half-truths, innuendoes and missrepresen ta tions?

GARRET FITZGERALD refuses to meet with Owen Carron because of Carron's defence of IRA violence and murder. Meanwhile, Garret FitzzGerald's closest political confidant and adviser to the Government, Alexis FitzGerald, in an interview with Olivia O'Leary in The Irish Times on Friday, Septem ber 18 says that on reflection he still thinks that the executions (by the Cumann na nGaedheal Governnment) were necessary, "but it was a horrible, horrible thing to have to do". These "executions" - seventy-seven in all - were by any defintion acts of simple murder. They were reprisal killlings of imprisoned IRA leaders in retaliation for what their comrades were doing outside the jails. There was· no legal authority for these actions, let alone any moral or ethical justificaation. It was a sordid, disreputable and horrific chapter in Irish history and one which, in the interests of Fine Gael at least, is now best forgotten. But that the senior adviser to the Government should now gratuitously condone these atrocities and then go on to sympathise with the murderers, rather than with the victims, surely deprives Garret FitzGerald of any moral right to condemn the Proviisionals, let alone someone who conndones the morally much less culpable actions of the present-day IRA.

ONE OF THE more interesting of the new crop of Senators is Sean O'Leary of Cork who was director of elections for Fine Gael last June. O'Leary is currrently embarked in a subtle campaign to get the Coalition to impose capital taxation on the grounds that it is the rich who have the greatest vested interest in promoting social harmony and taxation of this kind is necessary for this harmony. At a recent Fine Gael meeting in Macroom, O'Leary fired his opening shots in this cammpaign but failed to deliver the text of a speech he had released to the newsspapers. Skipping over one section of the speech he said "ah that's a load of rubbish". Later on he said "I must say that Fine Gael has not faced the ecoonomic problems of Ireland honestly ... Fianna Fail are far better at resisting pressure groups than Fine Gael are, while the Labour Party can't stand up to pressure groups at all".

A GOOD FRIEND of Magill, Denis O'Toole, died on September 26 last. During Magill's first precarious year of existence, he lent most of his life savings to the magazine "to ensure its survival - without which Magill would not have been able to celebrate even its first birthday. Denis O'Toole was born in Ballyhooley, County Cork, eighty-four years ago. He joined the Royal Irish Fusiliers before the First World War, in which he participated, most notably at the Battle of the Somme. His vivid descriptions of that engagement were retold to a number of our journalistic colleagues, includding Kevin Myers, who has a book in gestation on the Royal Irish Fusiliers, and Bruce Arnold, for his recent maggnificent book on William Orpen.

After the War, Mr O'Toole joined the civil service in which he became a meticulous and conscientious tax inspector. He stayed there until his official retirement age and then worked with private firms until his eighty-second birthday. Right until his death he maintained an alert precision on all matters and a lively interest in politics and current affairs - he was a regular and often caustic letter writer to The Irish Times.

Mr O'Toole was father of our general manager, Cecily, who, happily for us, has inherited many of his qualiities of precision and efficiency. To her, his other daughter, Barbara, and to his wife, Marion, we offer our deepest sympathy.