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27 September 2007 Edition

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Letter to the Taoiseach

The headline in Monday’s Irish Times said it all.  ‘Taoiseach recovers from Tribunal and Rugby Mayhem with a tour of Paris College.’  And there was me thinking that you were being ever so scholarly and ever so cultured by reopening the old library at the Irish College in Paris.
Lara Marlowe was being unkind when she noted that you got the century wrong when you outlined the history of the college.  ‘Mastery of detail’ is what Eamon Gilmore attributed to you last week when he announced the Labour Party’s new front bench.  
And then when I realised that it was the rugby that brought you to Paris in the first place, it kind of undid my image of you as erudite and scholarly.  
Do you remember what I was telling you about the great East/West divide in Tyrone?  ‘Divide’ might be too strong a word because it is the same in many counties.  Dromore from the West and Coalisland Fianna from the East will meet in the County Final at Omagh in a fortnight’s time.  Both wear blue jerseys.  Another reminder of the French, as if things weren’t bad enough on that front.  Anyway, my question is: Which team will give way and wear their second strip?  That’ll be the true test of the pecking order about right.
You’ll know by now Taoiseach that I have a soft spot for Wexford when it comes to gaelic games.  It is not too often that I support their opposite number but wasn’t it great to see Leitrim and Kilkenny carry off the spoils at Croke Park in the Intermediate and Junior Finals of ladies‘ gaelic football.  And the Intermediate Cup dedicated to the mother of Leitrim player, Maeve Quinn.  
The Quinns have contributed a lot to gaelic games in Leitrim.  Another reason why I have a fondness for Leitrim lies with anecdotal evidence that I have picked up from a number of friends and acquaintances who were warmly hosted in that county in the difficult days.  You know what I mean, Bertie.  I am sure that your own family enjoyed the open door there as well.  
It would be remiss of me not to commend your own Rebel County and Juliet Murphy for winning the three-in-a-row in the Ladies’ Senior Final.  
Did you see Ministers Margaret Ritchie and Gerry Kelly opening up the doors of Crumlin Road Prison to interested groups and individuals?  Not the first time that Gerry found the key.  Were you ever in ‘the Crum’ yourself, Taoiseach?  A very austere place, the Crum, quite like Kilmainham Gaol.  I think that both jails had a similar design.  
My memories of the Crum include twenty-three hour lockup, a great community of Republican friends, the last serving of food at 4.00pm, very limited access to toilet facilities and a highly charged atmosphere all of the time.  I have a great story to tell you sometime about the three RUC men who dispatched me to the Crum and who were refused ice cream after stopping off at a shop near Toomebridge on the M2.    I will fill in the detail at another time.  And also my meeting in Cell 29 on ‘the ones’ of A-wing with none other than Ian Paisley, my MEP at the time.
Since I was last speaking to you, I had the very pleasant duty of addressing Sammy Jo Sweeney, her family and friends just before Sammy Jo left Ireland to take part in the World Special Olympics which are being held in Shanghai.  I am sure you will join with me in wishing all our athletes Ádh mór.  ‘Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.’
When you were over in Paris, Taoiseach, did you manage to join Conor Murphy and Seanna Walsh and those French people who gathered in Bobby Sands Street or Rue Bobby Sands near the Stade de France just before the Rugby match started?  Fair play to Mayor Didier Paillard for his support.  I have come across Jardin Bobby Sands and Rue Patsy O’Hara in other parts of France.  Merci for that. 

Is mise le meas
Barry McElduff

NB: Bertie Ahern can be contacted on (00 353) 1 619 4020 or e-mail [email protected]  Address: Office of the Taoiseach, Government Buildings, Dublin 2.

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