Sunday 26 October 2014

Bestowing honours on Daniels come to judgement

Published 03/03/2013 | 05:00

Possibly prompted by Daniel Day-Lewis's deserved success at the Oscars, the same Shakespearean phrase kept popping up in my mind all week: "A Daniel come to judgment." Based on a Biblical character, it was first used by Shakespeare in Merchant of Venice where Shylock says:

A Daniel come to

judgment! yea, a Daniel!

O wise young judge, how

I do honour thee!

But it also applies to the wise young judge who gave his name to the Moriarty tribunal. We must hope Judge Michael Moriarty is happy with the honour, because his selfless long labours most likely meant he missed out on promotion.

* * *

THERE was a lot of déjà vu around the Dail last Tuesday. Micheal Martin asked Taoiseach Enda Kenny to reopen the Moriarty tribunal to look at the Lowry tapes. Enda Kenny's nervous response recalled distorted echoes of the Dail debate, two years ago, after the final report of the Moriarty tribunal.

Back then Micheal Martin pointed out that six then current cabinet members were in the Rainbow Coalition in 1995 when Minister Lowry awarded a controversial licence. He asked why they had allowed "Mr Lowry ride roughshod over them".

But then Enda Kenny was just three weeks into Government. So officially he and Fine Gael took the hard line on Mr Lowry. But the breach between the leadership of Fine Gael and Michael Lowry was never convincing.

For proof of that, consider Fionnan Sheahan's report in the Irish Independent of April 6, 2012, headed: "TD condemned by Moriarty always had access to Fine Gael." It revealed that while Mr Lowry was voting with Fianna Fail – and being cosmetically attacked by Fine Gael for doing so in the Dail – he was also an honoured guest at Phil Hogan's 50th birthday party in Bennettsbridge, Co Kilkenny, in July 2010.

That birthday bash was attended by Enda Kenny and five Fine Gael figures who would become cabinet ministers only months later. During it, Sheahan reports, Kenny came up to Lowry and joked: "Is that an application form I see in your top pocket?" and made three further mentions of Mr Lowry's presence.

Sheahan concludes: "If Mr Kenny had gone for a minority government, supported by Independents, after the 2011 General Election, there's no doubt he would have turned to Mr Lowry."

So much for Enda Kenny's attempts last week to frighten Micheal Martin away by referring to Lowry's support for Fianna Fail. Lowry is still the secret Fine Gael love that dares not speak its name.

* * *

ADAM Phillips, the psycho-analyst, has written a new book, Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life, about how the alternative lives we fantasise about living affect our real lives profoundly. And I bet lots of men would like to lead the life of Daniel Day-Lewis.

But not me. I have had it with Hollywood. But I always wanted to lead the life of Daniel's father, the poet, critic and crime novelist Cecil Day Lewis, who has long been one of my great heroes.

CDL was the son of a Protestant rector in Co Laois, so I would have grown up in a lovely rural rectory, in lovely countryside playing lawn tennis with lots of lovely Protestant Laois girls, the most loyal women in the world. What's not to like?

After that he went up to Oxford (my second choice) where he met WH Auden, the only poet I ever wanted to meet, apart from Philip Larkin. In 1933, as Hitler's fascists fastened their grip on Germany, he joined the Communist Party – as any moral being should have done – and rightly left it in 1939 after the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.

Joining the Party meant he met two of the men I always wanted to meet: the brilliant art critic and Soviet agent Anthony Blunt, and the equally brilliant Tipperary scientific genius of X-ray crystallograpy – and unrepentant Stalinist – JD Bernal.

During the 1930s, CDL did something else I would have liked to do. Using the pseudonym Nicholas Blake, he began to write detective stories.

My father was a huge fan of Blake's stories, which he borrowed from the Carnegie Library in Tallow, Co Waterford. Two of them, Penknife In My Heart and The Private Wound, were around our house until they fell apart.

In the Second World War, CDL worked where I would have loved to work: in the propagandist Ministry of Information where George Orwell got material for 1984. After the war he went to Cambridge (my first choice) as a lecturer and published one of my favourite works of literary criticism, The Poetic Image.

In 1960 when everybody else was going left, CDL did exactly what I would have done. He wrote a biography, Buried Day, which finally rejected communism. In between all this brilliance the lucky sod married the stunning Jill Balcon and had four children.

During my screenwriting years, I fell a bit in love with one of them, Tamasin Day-Lewis, the documentary film maker, but being spoken for, I said nothing. Alas, I only met Daniel once, but I could see he had his father's mischievous wit.

Cecil Day Lewis died at the Hertfordshire home of Kingsley Amis and Elizabeth Jane Howard, which meant he could entertain, and be entertained, to the end. Like me, he loved the poetry of Thomas Hardy and is buried close to Hardy's grave.

He would have been proud of Daniel as a third-time Oscar winner. But I suspect he would have been prouder that Daniel made a better hand of marriage than he did by marrying a keeper like Rebecca Miller. Long may they shed their lustre over their adopted county and country.

* * *

JOHN Condon, the former RTE producer who died last week, was the brains behind Hall's Pictorial Weekly. Although it looked like a light-hearted take on political events, the programme packed a lethal political punch and was widely credited with contributing to the defeat of the National Coalition in 1977. To give Liam Cosgrave his due, neither he nor his Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, Conor Cruise O'Brien, listened to the handlers who continually called on them to rein in the show. So Richie Ruin, the Minister for Hardship, and Cha and Miah, continued to add to the gaiety of the nation.

The extra edge in Hall's Pictorial came from Condon's experience as an editor at the BBC during the period of That Was the Week That Was.

But he first cut his teeth on Newsbeat with Cathal O'Shannon and Bill O'Herlihy before creating Hall's Pictorial.

John was the complete Cork patriot. Like Daniel Day-Lewis, he stayed in his Cork character all his life. He even married a Cork woman with the same sense of humour.

May I offer Marguerite and his family my condolences.

Irish Independent

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