An English Guinness?

This time of year is always interesting for the release of state papers under the thirty year rule. The release of these papers bring fresh light on a period of our past and often reveal tensions we thought were there as well as unearthing stories we didn’t even expect.The one story that struck me and made the front page of the Newsletter was the fact that the Guinness family considered moving the brand from Dublin to their English base.

The Guinness family were always very strong unionists and had a strong association with Dublin since Arthur Guinness started his 9000 year lease at St James Gate in 1759. The money from the Guinness family supported many buildings around Dublin, in particular, the Church of Ireland. Though the Guinness family would keep a low key profile in recent times, this wasn’t always the case. Arthur was strongly against the 1798 rebellion, so much so, that his renamed his drink ‘Protestant Porter’. The Guinness family also played a crucial role in the forming of the Orange Order in Dublin. However, the thinking behind the 1982 move had more to do with business than emotions or loyalty. Edward Guinness, who was in charge of PR for Guinness, was strong in his view that the IRA campaign brought into question the value of Irish branding. It seems ironic that the IRA, who proclaim to be fighting for Ireland and its people, nearly cost Ireland it’s biggest brand and export.

1982 proved to be a difficult year all round for Anglo-Irish relations with tensions over the Falkands War. The Irish Premier Charles Haughey, in particular, is signalled out as adding to the tensions. It is remarkable to think that 3 years later that the two governments would sign the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

We also discovered more about the inner workings of unionism in 1982, which seen a 27 year old Sammy Wilson informing the Northern Ireland office that the influence of the Free Presbyterian Church was on the wane as the association which was for the best as it did not add any votes for the DUP. More exciting was the coup that never happened to replace Jim Molyneaux as leader of the UUP with Harold McCusker. It is surprising that this information was kept secret until now given the nature of what was being panned.

Frank Millar’s report, in particular, was interesting in which he thought that the election of Rev Martin Smyth in South Belfast was the last time that the Orange Card would be played. He advocated that the UUP should become a left of centre unionist party which would appeal to catholics, it should also explore likes to the Alliance party. Millar went on to state that he believed that the UUP wasn’t ready or brave enough to commit to such moves.

The other revelation to come from the papers was the linking of a Sinn Fein TD Dessie Ellis to 50 murders. This has been denied by Sinn Fein and the man himself although they do say that he was a proud member of the republican struggle. It is unclear what this actually means.

I think we can look forward to the papers coming up in the next few years and in particular those relating to the Anglo-Irish Agreement and will no doubt hold more surprises for everyone.

, , , , , , ,

  • That final paragraph-sentence is the most telling.

    What we are being told is a sanitized version: the ‘papers’ (rather, an selection thereof) are made available to an ‘approved’ group of nonprofessional historians just in time to hit the public prints in the hiatus between Christmas and New Year. Eventually, the real researchers get their teeth into the stuff that has evaded the ‘sweepers’ — who are pretty good at homogenising what is made available, but, fortunately, do made mistakes. Above all what is daunting is the sheer bulk of material the great behemoth of the state machinery produces: hence the real ‘money shot’ might not emerge until a causal postgrad student hits on it, years later. That’s why ‘history’ is a moveable feast.

    Oh, and yes: there’s a bottom line here. The arrival of electronic media (emails, etc) means that we are entering the latter years of paper records. After that, we’ll never suss out what the bastards were up to.

  • Err … casual postgrad student, but what she/he spots may also be ‘causal’.


  • Desmond Trellace

    One quintessence seems to be: back in 1982 in Margaret Thatcher’s Britain you could get in more trouble for illegally sinkng a Guinness than legally sinking a Belgrano.

    I wonder if Margaret has started worrying at this stage of the game about whether or not the guy guarding the Pearly Gates is a Guinness drinker.

  • Jimmy Sands

    It is unclear what this actually means.

    Not really.

  • babyface finlayson

    ‘An English Guinness?’
    Should that not be McGuinness.
    And just because he is becoming the Bailiff of Northstead,
    that doesn’t mean you can call him English.

  • David Crookes


    Still too much Irish baggage, if you ask me.