Monday 19 November 2018

Mills digs gems from the Ditch

GARRET FitzGerald rose from his sick bed to be there. A former president, Paddy Hillery, even braved heavy rain to attend.

And Barry Desmond mused about how much Ireland has changed since, as Labour Minister for Health, he championed grown-up laws on contraception.

They were at the Royal Irish Academy to launch a gem of a book by Michael Mills.

Hurler on the Ditch is the brief memoir of a poor boy who came to be respected by all sides for his knowledge of Irish politics.

Michael Mills was one of the best Irish journalists of the 20th Century. As political correspondent at the Irish Press, he wrote clearly, accurately and fairly.

Later, he became Ireland's first Ombudsman, much to the annoyance of Charles Haughey who tried to make his job as difficult as possible.

Brian Farrell launched the book. He had worked with Mills on one of RTE's early television programmes, called The Hurler on the Ditch. In a more innocent and respectful age, it gave viewers some insight into political debates.

Farrell said that Mills was never one of those journalists who think that they are breaking a story when they are actually just relaying selective leaks. He commended, especially, the chapter on The Arms Crisis.

The chapter Political Profiles is even better, including a sad pen-picture of David Thornley, that brilliant academic and short-term Labour TD, who became bored by tedious Dail debates and turned to drink before his early death.

The former Northern Ireland Ombudsman and senator, Maurice Hayes, attended the launch.

But Emily O'Reilly, another journalist who has succeeded Mills as the Republic's Ombudsman, did not make it.

Hurler on the Ditch is a timely reminder of the need for high standards in the media. Hopefully, it may also encourage other retired journalists to write their own memoirs.

Colum Kenny

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