According to what’s appeared in the papers, the archives of 1982 have produced few surprises. Perhaps Wally Kirwan’s suggestion of cross border internment put (safely) to Garret FitzGerald comes close but it was never going to happen. The two governments had allowed themselves to be pushed apart by the 1981 hunger strike and a key initiative had been handed to the IRA and Sinn Fein for years. I missed an early chance of enlightenment. After snatching a TV interview with Gerry Adams in the aftermath, his then PR man Danny Morrison said to me: “Would you like to hear about our ideas for after the hunger strike ?” “Sorry Danny, got to get back to get the film developed “ I replied . Was an historic opportunity missed? Almost certainly not but it shows how the pressures of TV news can sometimes get in the way of the story.
The Falklands war provided a quixotic episode of Anglo-Irish tension of a type that hadn’t been seen since World War Two, but this time entirely gratuitously. It’s always striking and even heartening to read how far Haughey’s anti- British digs over the Falklands were frustrated by the Department of Foreign Affairs despite his attempts to dominate policy.
But it was news to me to read that RTE gave bogus accreditation to my BBC colleague Clive Ferguson to serve with us in Buenos Aires as a news producer. For the record Roisin McAuley, David Capper and I simply made good use of our existing Irish passports and worked openly but discreetly for the BBC. Fairly discreetly that is, for we played host to senior members of the Argentine navy keen to share our Argentine champagne and their excitement at actually fighting a little war. My fear was that Charlie might shop us publicly with the compliant Argentinians and force them to take action against us After I’d paid my respects at the Irish embassy, as I closed the door I heard the diplomat say: ”And some of them are even real Irish!” “Excuse me? ” I came back to say. Months later, I thanked Mr Haughey for his kind collaboration in a very minor British subterfuge.
A very Happy New Year.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London