Watching RTE’s “The PDs – From Boom To Bust” last night, I laughed when Charlie McCreevy said of Des O’Malley that, while he could be great craic, “he would start a row in an empty house”.
I was reminded of a story I heard a couple of years ago about an incident back in the 1970s when O’Malley was Minister for Justice. Hopefully it’s not an urban myth.
At the time Des was in the habit of paying a regular visit to his mother, who lived in the Sandycove/Dun Laoghaire area. After the visit he would drop into Fitzgerald’s pub in Sandycove for a drink, accompanied by two Special Branch bodyguards. Des would take a stool at the bar and the two bodyguards would sit at a table near the door.
Des would strike up a conversation with the locals at the bar and, in no time at all, would have an argument going. Sometimes he’d be running several different arguments simultaneously with a number of drinkers.
The night of O’Malley’s visit would coincide with the pub owner’s (Charlie Fitzgerald) night off and the young barman in charge didn’t know who O’Malley was.
After several weeks of this routine the young barman finally lost patience: “Look, every time you come in here you start a row. You’re upsetting my regulars. Finish your drink and get out, you’re barred!”
Of course, this started a new row with the barman as O’Malley strongly asserted his rights. The barman came around the counter, took Des by the scruff of the neck and frog-marched him to the door, past the two bodyguards who made no move to intervene, and out the door onto the street.
As the barman came back in, he passed the Special Branch men on their way out to rejoin their master. “Goodnight now” was all they said.
The following day Charlie Fitz was horrified (terrified) when one of his regulars, who had recognised O’Malley, told him what had happened, fearing perhaps that he’d be targeted by the gardai in reprisal. Thankfully, there were no repercussions.
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