Irish News

Friday 11 July 2014

A year of kidnappings, scandals, jail breaks and civil war in FF

At a glance

Ralph Riegel

Published 27/12/2013|02:30

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Don Tidey and children

IT was a year when politics and controversies dominated the news, ranging from the phone-tapping scandal to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's landslide re-election, to soaring tensions in Northern Ireland.

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Those who thought 1982 -- the year of political 'GUBU' -- was controversial were in for a rude awakening as 1983 dawned amid fresh political scandal.

On January 19, one of Ireland's most enduring political controversies erupted when it emerged that former Justice Minister Sean Doherty had sought the 'tapping' of journalists' and politicians' phones.

The reasons cited to gardai for the 'tappings' were concerns over subversive activity, but it transpired that they were entirely motivated by internal concerns within Fianna Fail.

The controversy permanently damaged Doherty's political career and forced the resignation of Ireland's two most senior gardai, including the force's commissioner, Patrick McLaughlin.

Former Taoiseach Charles Haughey, for whom Doherty was widely believed to have been acting, narrowly survived a leadership heave on February 8.

The fallout would ultimately lead to the formation of the Progressive Democrats by disillusioned FF politicians, including Des O'Malley and Mary Harney.

Just 24 hours after Charles Haughey had fought off the FF rebels, the lauded racehorse Shergar was kidnapped by armed and masked men from Ballymany Stud in Co Kildare.

Despite an enormous search operation and rumours of ransoms and secret burials over the next three decades, no trace of Shergar was ever found.

The New Ireland Forum was launched on May 30 in a desperate bid to kick-start peace negotiations over Northern Ireland.

Margaret Thatcher won a landslide general election victory over Labour, with the Tories buoyed by the triumph in the Falklands War.

The violence continued unabated in Northern Ireland, with 38 IRA prisoners making a daring escape from the Maze Prison in September.

The previous June, Gerry Adams was elected a Sinn Fein MP for West Belfast as he defeated Gerry Fitt with British experts expressing concern at the near collapse of the SDLP.

In November, a republican gang kidnapped Quinnsworth boss Don Tidey at gunpoint outside Dublin as he dropped his daughter to school.

He was rescued after a shoot out at Ballinamore, Co Leitrim, on December 16 in a confrontation that claimed the lives of a young soldier and a trainee garda.

The kidnappers escaped, though two were subsequently arrested on the Continent and extradited back to Northern Ireland.

Ireland's first motorway -- albeit only 8km of it -- was opened as part of the Naas bypass on the N7. But it would be a further quarter century before Ireland's two main cities were linked by a continuous motorway.

There was a transport tragedy on August 22 when two trains collided at Cherryville Junction in Kildare, resulting in seven deaths and over 50 people being seriously injured.

The tragedy occurred following a catalogue of problems and mistakes including a replacement locomotive running out of diesel on the main Dublin-Cork line.

On the GAA field, it was a year that was dominated by Kilkenny and Dublin.

Kilkenny beat Cork to lift the Liam McCarthy Cup in a thrilling repeat of the 1982 final. Dublin lifted the Sam Maguire Cup, but in controversial circumstances, with four players -- three of them from Dublin -- sent off in an ill-tempered clash with Galway.

There was also joy on the athletics track as Eamonn Coghlan (below) won gold in the 5,000 metres at the inaugural World Championships in Helsinki, Finland.

On the music scene, Michael Jackson hinter at the pop domination that was to follow with his smash hit single 'Billie Jean', which topped the Irish charts for a fortnight.

However, the year belonged to Sting and The Police as the British band topped the charts for seven weeks with smash hit singles, 'Wrapped Around Your Finger' and 'Every Breath You Take'.

DEATHS

Former Fianna Fail minister and leadership contender, George Colley; former Fianna Fail Tanaiste Frank Aiken; former Lord Mayor of Cork and Fine Gael TD Anthony Barry; and policeman David Neligan, better known as an General Michael Collins's invaluable Dublin Castle spy.

BIRTHS

Pop singer and actress, Samantha Mumba; Cork hurler Setanta O hAilpin; the late model and socialite Katy French and singer-songwriter, Mick Flannery.

Irish Independent

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