Today’s Irish Times has tragedy, comedy and something “tragicomedic” in between.
Let Malcolm take them in order of importance.
Ireland, which enriched the English language with the word boycott, has invented a refinement of the term. The new word: fethardism, meaning to practice boycott along religious lines.
The most cathartic of those three dramatic distinctions involves the sad story of Sheila Cloney of Fethard-on-Sea.
For anyone of certain years (perhaps a few more than Malcolm yet possesses) what happened in Fethard, in 1957, summarised much that was wrong with Éamon de Valera’s Ireland.
Sheila Kelly, born and raised a Protestant, married Seán Cloney in London. When they returned to Ireland they ran up against the local parish priest, Fr William Stafford, who told her, apparently quite forcibly, that the children of the marriage would attend the local “Catholic school and there’s nothing you can do about it”.
Well, there was. Mrs Cloney took her herself and her children to Protestant Northern Ireland (and subsequently all the way to Orkney). Eventually, the Cloney children were home-schooled.
Meanwhile, Fr Stafford called for (and got) a boycott of all local Protestant businesses.
This was one of the most poisonous moments in Irish inter-denominational relations. And, today, Michael Parsons notices Sheila Cloney’s passing.
By comparison today’s Irishman’s Diary is Wesley Boyd (a political journalist of the premier cru and, later, Head of News at RTÉ) burnishing his well-deserved pension pot.
Boyd (who would bustle down those steep steps from the Irish Times newsroom as the young Malcolm tripped nervously and over-ambitiously upward) runs together four superb anecdotes. In sequence:
- Trainee barman, Gerry Adams, trying to stuff a potato up the exhaust pipe of the official car of the Stormont Home Affairs Minister:
The car started and Gerry escaped arrest. The potato rising had failed and The Cause was lost again.
- Harold Macmillan trying to convince the well-whiskied lobby of his crofter ancestry.
- Best of all, the putting down of Michael O’Leary (one of the referees for Malcolm’s first job: he never responded) in the Pearl Bar by Frank Cluskey:
One night I was in the Pearl having a pint with Frank Cluskey, who became leader of the party in 1977.
We were joined by Michael O’Leary who was to succeed Cluskey as leader in 1981 before defecting to Fine Gael a few years later. After comparing notes on their respective campaigns O’Leary announced that he had encountered Michael O’Riordan, veteran of the Spanish civil war and leader of the Irish Communist Party, on the street outside. “I always had a great admiration for that man,” he told us. “I slipped him a fiver for his campaign.”
“And how much did you donate to my campaign?” inquired Cluskey with mock innocence. “I need all the money I can get for my own campaign,” said O’Leary. “And so do I,” shouted Cluskey. “That f…… O’Riordan is standing against me in my constituency and you’re supporting him with fivers. The national executive will hear about this in the morning.” It was the start of a long period of bad blood between the two campaigners.
Mick O’Riordan stood in every election in Dublin South-Central. For the Irish Workers’ Party (not the CPI, though the distinction was one of name only). He regularly got something like 318 votes (which then, obediently, transferred to Cluskey. The IWP tellers would be able to say, “Ah, but so-and-so is in hospital” down to the last singleton. Between elections, Mick drove Dublin buses and helped Johnny Nolan run the Red Shed at 16 Pearse Street.
And, ah!, the Pearl Bar (now lost and gone forever)! Rough as a badger’s bum. If it wasn’t happening there, the action was in the Palace, (grossly misnamed) across Westmoreland Street.
- And the de-rigeur gesture (fingers retracted) toward the upwardly-mobile Charlie Haughey.
The sheer comedic
This one may need to be read aloud. It involves re-possession of properties, to the total of 54, by banks and mortgage lenders, in the Dublin High Court’s chancery summonses hearing:
Granting the order for possession, Ms Justice Dunne said …