Burial rites of Irish Press held off for another year
Published 06/11/1997 | 00:11
A PENNY for the Guy. The protracted obsequies and funeral parade of the Irish Press newspapers resumed yesterday on Guy Fawkes Day, as Irish Press directors, Vincent Jennings and Eamon de Valera, alternated as the fall guys to get a roasting from shareholders.
Unruly shareholders and former employees hurled abuse as the ashen directors shunted the corpse of the Irish Press publications along. Company solicitor Larry Shields acted as undertaker, rarely interjecting and leaving the sorrowing directors and members to loudly mourn their loss.
Messrs Jennings' and de Valera's close friend and recent chairman of the Catholic Church's Veritas publishing company, Jimmy Lehenan, was a dignified chief mourner at the top table. Chairman Jennings in a grey suit fended off suggestions that a grave be opened, and the poor expired papers be given a decent burial.
Managing director and company secretary Dr de Valera, wearing a better tailored grey suit, agreed that the papers should not be interred. He is devoting himself fulltime, at a salary of £75,000 plus expenses, car and pension contributions, to reviving the corpse.
Resisting entreaties to resign, both men bravely and courageously said they hoped to see life breathed back into the three newspapers.
Undeterred by taunts, they are striving to achieve this Lazarus-like commercial comeback. They agree it will be a costly miracle, and are seeking donations from potential investors.
The bells tolled for midday and the managing director stoicly deflected queries as to what he does with the corpse every day.
Both directors rebuffed the impertinence of shareholders who repeatedly asked Dr de Valera what he occupied himself with in a suite of offices on Dublin's Merrion Square between 9am and 5pm five days a week.
One frustrated shareholder accepted he would never find out what the good doctor gets up to for most of the day, but wondered if he could not do the same from a bedsit in Ranelagh rather than pay top rents in Merrion Square.
For hours, Irish Press investors tip-toed through the rubble of the newspapers asking why the directors had bought ancient printing presses from the liquidator which they now said are worthless.
All sorts of commercial gun-powder plots were raked over. Share transactions involving the Irish Press Corporation in Delaware, USA, brought the ghost of the original Eamon de Valera back to the gathering.
Sightseers came to watch the noisy funeral procession. A group of journalism students from Dublin City University gaped in disbelief.
Vincent Jennings approached them during one of the contested votes, and politely thanked them for their sympathies.
When invited to vote for Mr Jennings' re-election to the board, a shareholder, affected by the funereal atmosphere, referred to the somewhat stressed chairman as ``resembling the living dead''.
It was so unseemly. Despite calls from the floor, the directors declined to throw the relic on the bonfire of liquidation.
Instead the corpse will be embalmed and used in litigation against the large American merchant bank Warburg Pincus.
It will also feature in a case being taken by the directors against the Minister for Enterprise and Employment and the Attorney General.
After three hours, the Guy Fawkes parade ended and we may not see the much missed remains of the Irish Press, with about £2m left in its pocket, on public view for another year.