Wigmore, Sept 1982: the presidency, the Knights of Columbanus and George Colley's death

  • 1 October 1983
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IN THE Dynasty-style carry-on over who would be President, one phrase which kept recurring was that so-and-so would be "unacceptable to Charlie Haughey". Less often, but still pretty often, it was said that some other so-and-so would be "unacceptable to Garret FitzGerald".

A thorough search of the Constiitution has failed to find a mention therein of either of these people, whoever they are. It would appear from the Constitution that the citiizens of this country decide who is acceptable as fairy on top of the national Christmas tree. This, clearly, is not the case. The chief determinant seems to be whether a particular President would hurt the ego of either of the boys. This is not what the Constitution says. The gap between what the Constitution intends and reality indicates the extent to which the presidency has been corrupted. Maybe the wording was faulty .

THE MOST cogent argument for the retention of the office of the Presiidency has been that someone has to sign Bills, technically dissolve the Dail and technically do a lot of other things he or she is told to do by the government.

May we suggest Wigmore for this position? Won't charge a penny. Don't need the Arus or the car or the driver. Always on call for signing Bills etc, 24 hour service. Would do it just for the crack. No need for all that nonsense of unveiling plaques and opening supermarkets. Leave that to Mike Murphy.

If Wigmore is unacceptable to Charlie Haughey we would suggest Sean Doherty or Hector Grey. Or there are 200,000 people unemployed out there with time on their hands. Most, being generous and patriotic, would probably do it for the hell of it. Some might demand an extra tenner a week on their dole. Any would behave with greater dignity than the politicians, including Paddy Hillery, who have reduced the Presidency to a pub joke.

KNIGHT and Dei, you are the one'; only you beneath ...

Where were we? Last month we noted the case of Sally Keogh, who had campaigned for legalised family planning and how a couple of years later the Knights of Columbanus were writing to her new boss, detailing her history and suggesting something might be done. Here we go again.

One of those Knights, Nial Darragh, recently wrote to Southside, a Dublin giveaway newspaper of repute. He reminded the editors that a year previously he and John O'Reilly, an ex-Knight and one of the founders of the Amendment campaign, had visited the paper to complain about coverage of the Dalkey School Project. (The Knights conducted a covert campaign against non-denominational education.)

Now he wanted to complain about coverage of the Amendment campaign and suggested that Southside wanted "to make homosexuals socially accepttable".

Darragh warned that this kind of thing "could possibly provoke a reacction that would threaten the viability of your enterprise". He also warned, "a boycott of your advertisers would not be helpful".

He threatened court action "with attendant publicity" if the paper was delivered to his house again, warned that he would "continue to monitor" the paper (bit of a contradiction here?) and would 'later decide "if action through organisations is necessary". (Huh? Come again?)

Southside, to their credit, simply published the missive under the headding "Your Letters".

We would appreciate information on any similar attempts "to make the Knights socially acceptable".

THE NEW Travolta/Stallone movie, Staying Alive, has been hyped to high heaven. So heavily has it been plugged that it's no wonder some lines got crossed. On September 4 the Sunday Press carried an interview with Stallone by Janet Maslin. The Sunday Indepenndent of that same day ran an interview with Stallone by Ivor Davis. It was the same story, word for word. Did Janet write it, or Ivor, or ... who's fooling who?

MAGILL extends its sympathy to the family of George Colley, who died last month. For over twenty years George Colley was centrally involved in parliamentary politics. In our professional dealings with him he always acted with courtesy and understanding. As a Minister he held several important posts and did the job with energy and efficiency.

It is unfortunate that any death should be the occasion of hypocrisy and cynicism. George Colley in his going suffered this more than most. There is a convention that the press simply report what is said when someone dies, that it refrains from comment and allows itself become the vehicle for that hypocrisy and cynicism. It is a convention which we will not observe.

The hypocrisy came from the Haughey camp. Compassion dictated that they express sympathy at Colley's death and they did. But they went further. There was a pretence that despite the political differences Haughey and Colley remained close friends. This was untrue. They loathed each other. In addition, Colley had decided that if Haughey was still leader at the next election Colley would not stand. The Haughey camp in turn was continuing its efforts to isolate and evict Colley. Bertie Ahern said that while he had differences with Colley at parliamentary party level they got on well in their con stituency. This was untrue. There was bitter and sustained competition and conflict between them at each of the last three elections.

The cynicism came from the antiiHaughey camp, both inside and outtside Fianna Fail. The word "integrity" has become a joke word in political and journalistic circles since Colley's death, so often was it abused. One after another Haughey's enemies lined up to stress Colley's "integrity", and by implication the lack of that quality in his arch enemy. In truth, there is no evidence that George Colley had any more or less integrity than most members of the Dail. We are not aware of any truly dishonourable behaviour on his part, neither are we aware of any evidence of sainthood. He was a successful politician for many years, with all the toughness that implies. Following his death, his friends were not so much praising Colley as damnning Haughey. That is their right. Colley, being a tough politician, would have understood that and probably. would not have been offended. However, it was cynical and there was little integrity in it.

When the hypocrisy and cynicism are forgotten George Colley will be remembered not for some mystical integrity but for his clashes with Haughey and his ultimate defeat. This is a pity. What he should be rememmbered for is the fact that it was Colley who in 1980 put a stop to the attempt to build a nuclear power station at Carnsore. It is true that his opposition was on financial and not environnmental grounds but that one act was a positive contribution to the health and safety of this and future generaations. It was the single most important action of his Ministerial career and is not a bad thing to be remembered by.

THE HALLMARK of the present government is its ability to tease out problems, probing and discussing, reejecting all the simple or obvious soluutions and coming up with the most complicated response possible. Eviddence - the Ministerial car fiasco.

It has taken them ten months to come up with a complex plan which will probably cost us more money in the long run. The simple answer would have been to just abolish state cars altogether and send their garda drivers back where they belong - preeventing crime. Instead, they assuage their egos by fiddling with the probblem and then praise themselves for taking economy measures.

Ministers don't need state cars.

They should be in their offices  Ministering. They use them for party purposes, personal purposes, or for driving down the country to "open" factories which have already been operating quite well for a couple of months. Ministers are not needed for such duties - and if they want the publicity they should travel to such events under their own steam. And their wages should be docked for the time they are out of their offices.

Ministers living outside Dublin should get cm travel vouchers.

Don't give us the nonsense about state limos being necessary for security reasons. It's not long since one state car, complete with sub-machine gun I ••. under the seat, was found upside down in a ditch. And another one was stolen from outside a Dublin hotel. Some security.

AT HIS first press conference of the 1981 general election campaign Garret FitzGerald derided suggestions that anyone had anything to fear from a Coalition - despite the disgraceful "law and order" record of the 1973377 Coalition. "You know me", was his assurance.

Funny, though, that the Ault & Wiborg strikers were jailed under Garret's regime in November 1981. And the Ranks workers were jailed this year under Garret's' regime. And now they're putting people in jail for refusing to pay ground rent - i.e. extortionate payments to the desscendents of the thugs who stole land with a King's charter in one hand and a big sword in the other.

Of course, it's not Garret who's jailing people. But the buck stops with him and the fact is that there were no similar jailings under Haughey's regime.

The absurd laws on injunctions urgently need reform. And the ground rent nonsense should simply be stopped. But perhaps the Coalition instinct is simply to preserve "law and order" - even if the law is unjust and the order non-existent.

HAVE you heard the new hourly Radio 2 News? Perhaps you don't listen to Radio 2. Do yourself a favour, listen.

Some people we know like to stock up with wine and sit in a commfortable armchair with the lights out, listening to Radio 2 News. They say it's better than smoking banana peel. For the best effect you should listen to three or four bulletins on the trot.

Our favourite newsreader is Veer Win Jones, "Squeaky" to his fans. But the lad who lifts stuff from BBC's Newsnight has quite a following.