Friday 16 August 2013


On this day in 1982 the then Attorney General (the chief law officer of the country and adviser to the government on all legal matters), Patrick Connelly, resigned.  Falling on your metaphorical sword is much less common in Irish political circles than, say, in Britain. I'm not sure if it's a devil-may-care-but-I-don't tolerance here or a limpet-like adherence to the trappings and salary of power.  Twenty years ago, for example, a Minister of State was found cruising through a sea of male prostitutes in the Phoenix Park and he maintained his position, and indeed is still a TD now.  That's fine with me but I was surprised it was tolerated by his government colleagues as it's not the sort of action that's guaranteed to secure a landslide of votes at the next election.

Ten years earlier in late July 1982, and not a mile from The Cruising, a young woman was bludgeoned to death so that an unhinged idler called Malcolm MacArthur could have the exclusive use of her car. He needed wheels so that he could go out and buy a gun down the country.  He needed the gun so that he could rob a few banks to restore his depleted funds.  Having a dead body in the back of the car made it too difficult to drive in broad daylight to Edenderry that afternoon, so it wasn't until three days later that MacArthur went out to purchase the gun that had been advertised for sale.  MacArthur's first action with his new acquisition was to shoot the vendor and steal his car to return to Dublin.  This was grist to the tabloid mill and the police eventually ran the murderer down . . . in the home of the Attorney General.  The irony was too great to allow AG Patrick Connelly to survive in government.  The Taoiseach of day Charles Haughey spluttered about "a bizarre happening, an unprecedented situation, a grotesque situation, an almost unbelievable mischance."  As if the louche acquaintances of his legal adviser were tolerably odd rather than exposing a systemic something rotten in the state of Dublin.  Conor Cruise O'Brien, journalist and opposition insider, abstracted the adjectives from Haughey's statement and clagged them into the acronym GUBU which has become rather a cliche over succeeding years.

Ten years after this first of many GUBU events, Haughey was back in power as Taoiseach and I was getting to know a new friend from Madrid.  Jose-Maria "Pepe" Malpica was visiting TCD on a year's sabbatical from his Institute in Spain.  Over coffee one morning I was explaining to Pepe just how corrupt the country was. The latest of gubu shenanigan might have been that the Taoiseach was having his shirts tailored by Charvet in Paris and getting them delivered by diplomatic bag - I forget.  Pepe pulled himself up and patriotically asserted "You call that corruption?  That's small potatoes my friend.  If you want true corruption you must come to Spain, we do things bigger there".  Pepe died a few years ago, I miss him.

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