(This was also published by the Huffington Post)
I am back in the UK after a week in Kerry in south west Ireland.
My friend acquired five small pieces of flat grey slate to use as coffee cup coasters. They were confiscated at Kerry Airport on the way back home lest we fashion them on the plane as Stone Age axe heads and attack the cabin crew.
This is partly understandable and a good use of lateral thinking, though a tad fantastically paranoid and I did wonder if some of the massive amounts of cocaine smuggled in through Kerry had trickled down to the security lady who was evidently so proud to wear her overly-neat uniform.
Yes. Mieow. Indeed.
Still, we could indeed have turned out to be the Coffee Cup Coaster Terrorists.
There was no negotiating possible with the security lady which was odd, as chatting things over to sort out problems tends to be a national pastime and to work wonders.
I was told that, a few years ago, in the Iveragh Peninsula, where we stayed, there had been an attempt by the IRA to wield more local influence in Kray Twins like ways – a bit of protection money here, a bit of a percentage there. But this was nipped fairly quickly in the bud by “some people” having a chat with the RA lads and making it clear this was not acceptable. Quite who “some people” were was unclear but, clearly, they had well-honed and persuasive negotiating skills.
Likewise the late lamented roguish Irish politician Charlie Haughey who was Taoiseach three times. I was told that once, when he was not Taoiseach, he needed a bit of money and his luxury yacht sank in suspicious circumstances.
The circumstances were so suspicious that the insurance company refused to pay out – until Charlie had a little chat with them and pointed out that this was Ireland and, if they gave him any trouble, they themselves might encounter similarly annoying obstacles to their interests when he became Taoiseach again.
They paid out.
It’s good to talk.
As I mentioned in a blog before, Charlie was that very Irish thing: a lovable rogue and his passing must have been much lamented by the tabloid press and by stand-up comedians and pub humorists across the country.
During his reign as leader, Charlie’s Fianna Fail party was known as “the party of the brown envelope”.
Of course, wagging tongues do not necessarily tell or even imply the truth and innocent people can be sullied. Charlie’s successor as Fianna Fail leader and as Taoiseach was Bertie Ahern, a much-respected Taoiseach untouched by scandal – he was known as the ‘Teflon Taoiseach’.
He came to power in the same year as Tony Blair and the two of them succeeded where many others had failed – getting a peace deal in Northern Ireland.
It’s good to talk.
Historic and highly admirable stuff but, oddly, Bertie had been an accountant before entering politics and then Minister for Finance before becoming Taoiseach.
I say “oddly” because, it later turned out, he had no bank account until December 1993. (He was Minister for Finance 1991-1994 and became Taoiseach in 1997 when he was aged 45.)
There’s no law which says you have to have a bank account but, given such facts, stand-up comedians and unfounded speculation can run amuck.
Later, in court, Bertie’s former girlfriend testified that he once drove her to a bank in Dublin’s O’Connell Street so she could withdraw £50,000 sterling in cash for him. A businessman involved with Bertie told of emptying a briefcase containing £28,000 onto a desk and Bertie put the cash into a safe, without counting it. And, indeed, without giving a receipt.
Recently, when both former Provisional IRA leader Martin McGuinness and former Eurovision Song Contest winner Dana ran for the post of President of the Irish Republic, McGuinness came third and Dana sixth out of the seven contenders.
This was said to be because fewer people could remember Dana’s hits.
Ireland. Land of comedy, corruption and persuasive terrorism.