Sunday 18 February 2018

Murdered ambassador's widow dismissed as 'pushy'

Diplomacy

Lady Jane Ewart-Biggs
Lady Jane Ewart-Biggs
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

THE widow of a British ambassador murdered by the IRA -- who devoted her life to promoting Anglo-Irish relations -- was dismissed by a Dublin civil servant as "pushy" and "bothersome".

State archives, released after 30 years, showed how civil servants advised the Taoiseach that he did not have to write a personal apology to Lady Jane Ewart-Biggs for being unable to attend an event for the charity named after her slain husband.

Christopher Ewart-Biggs (55), and a young civil servant travelling in the car with him, were killed when the IRA detonated a huge landmine as his official car drove past a junction in Sandyford, Dublin, on July 21, 1976.

He had only taken up his post in Ireland two weeks earlier.

Lady Jane Ewart-Biggs founded a charity in her husband's memory, CEBC.

The highlight of her charity's year was the award of the Christopher Ewart-Biggs Prize for Literature. In 1979, Taoiseach Charles Haughey was invited to become a charity patron.

"There is no reason as to why the Taoiseach should not accept this invitation," said one adviser. "Indeed, not to do so would be widely misinterpreted both here and in Britain."

However, in a handwritten addition to the memo, another civil servant advised caution, writing: "Mrs Ewart-Biggs is one of those well-intentioned but 'pushy' individuals whose attention can be bothersome at times."

She later wrote to Fine Gael leader Dr Garret FitzGerald to congratulate him on his election as taoiseach.

Dr Fitzgerald was subsequently unable to attend a CEBC event and asked whether he should personally write to express his regrets.

"The Taoiseach is requested to reply to (CEBC secretary) and it would be an imposition to convey his response to Lady Ewart-Biggs who would then probably have to pass it on to Belfast. Moreover, it would be starting correspondence with Lady Ewart-Biggs unnecessarily," a civil servant wrote on December 2, 1983.

Lady Ewart-Biggs died in 1992 at the age of 63, just months after marrying her second husband.

Irish Independent

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