Saturday, May 12, 2007

Political Probity comes at a price.

Des O’Malley was expelled from Fianna Fail in 1985 for “conduct unbecoming” which, with hindsight, is truly laughable, knowing what we now know about the endemic corruption in FF under Charlie Haughey.

O’Malley promptly founded the Progressive Democrat Party, whose primary raison d’etre was to uphold standards in public office. While O’Malley has always enjoyed a high reputation for personal probity, he also carries a reputation as being somewhat difficult to get on with.

A tale related at a recent function in my local pub, Charlie Fitzgerald‘s in Sandycove. The teller swore that it’s true.

Back in the early 1970’s, when the troubles in Northern Ireland were front page news on a daily basis, Des O’Malley was Minister for Justice in the Fianna Fail Government. Because of the Northern troubles and his highly sensitive portfolio, he was always provided with a 24-hour Special Branch bodyguard.

At the time his mother lived in the suburbs of Dun Laoghaire and he visited her one evening every week. He developed the habit of dropping into Fitzgeralds after each visit, accompanied by two Special Branch men. While Des took a seat at the bar, the two policemen sat at a discreet distance in a corner and had some soft drinks. Meanwhile, Des lit up a cigarette, ordered his drink and engaged in conversation with the locals sitting along the bar. This was all very fine, but Des quickly revealed his garrulous streak, starting arguments with the regulars.

This went on for several weeks, Des arriving on the same night each week, which happened to be Charlie's night off. Pat, the young barman from Tipperary, didn’t recognise his new customer who was now annoying his regular customers on a weekly basis. He talked to his boss, Charlie Fitzgerald, about the problem. Charlie never did brook any nonsense in his pub. “If he’s causing trouble, Pat, just bar him the next time he’s in.”

So the following week, when O’Malley arrived with his two bodyguards, the same routine unfolded. It wasn’t too long before Des had started to argue with and annoy the regulars. “Right” said Pat the barman, “that’s it! You’re barred. Out!” as he rounded the bar and frog-marched Justice Minister Des O’Malley out the door and into the street. The two Special Branch men made no move to intervene or identify themselves or their master. They simply sat and waited till O’Malley was outside and then they quietly left the pub.

The following day, Charlie Fitzgerald got a phone call from a national newspaper: “Is there any truth in the rumour that you barred the Minister for Justice last night?”. Charlie, of course denied everything.

No comments:

Blog Archive