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Complaint over gender imbalance

THE Irish Housewives Association wrote to Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald after his election to complain that only one of his 11 nominations to the Seanad was a woman.

In August 1981, Miriam Kearney (22), a member of Young Fine Gael from Dublin, was Dr FitzGerald's only female nominee to the Senate.

The imbalance failed to impress Hilda Tweedy from the association's International and Status of Women Committee. "This was an opportunity for you and the Tanaiste (Labour leader Michael O'Leary) to demonstrate your commitment to raising the status of women in Ireland by nominating more women to reduce the imbalance," she wrote.

Bizarre hijacking had Irish links

ONE of the most bizarre hijackings in aviation history had strong Irish links.

It involved an Aer Lingus flight from London to Dublin on May 2, 1981, which ultimately landed in Le Touquet in France. The man at the centre of the affair was Australian Laurence Downie, a former Trappist monk, who demanded that the Boeing 737 jet -- carrying 113 passengers and crew -- take him to Tehran.

Before making that request, Downie drenched himself in petrol, entered the flight deck, and claimed to be holding vials of cyanide gas.

Downie also demanded that the Pope had to publish the third secret of Fatima -- one of a series of revelations said to have been given by the Virgin Mary in an apparition.

He initially demanded to be taken to Iran but when told there was insufficient fuel he specified France. Transport Minister Albert Reynolds then got involved, flying to France to greet the passengers at the end of their ordeal.

Downie was arrested when a French anti-terrorist squad stormed the jet and set everyone free.

Royal wedding 'snub' causes stir

THE famous royal wedding of Charles and Diana sparked a spat when President Patrick Hillery failed to attend.

The newly released documents for 1981 included a protest over the non-attendance of President Hillery.

The complaint was made by British-based Irish Catholic priest P G O'Dea. Writing directly to the President from his home in Lancashire, Fr O'Dea queried just why Dr Hillery had not been at Westminster Abbey for the ceremony. "

In a brief reply, Aras an Uachtarain pointed out that Ireland had been represented at the wedding by the Irish ambassador in London.

Irish Independent