Saturday 24 March 2018

Putting hurt behind her – getting down to business

Donal Lynch tries to figure out why exactly Caroline Desmond went public about her husband's love affairs

Donal Lynch

Donal Lynch

John Updike once wrote that an affair, by its very nature, wants to spill, to share its glory with the world. "No act is so private that it does not require applause." Denis Desmond somehow managed to keep his liaisons out of the papers but his wife Caroline Downey could not help spilling about one of them last week.

And nobody could quite figure out what she expected to glean from it. It couldn't have been canny profile-building, PR guru Terry Prone sagely pointed out, since nobody wants that kind of profile. She can't have been forced into it – libel laws in this country are so heavily weighted in favour of those who would sue media outlets that none of the dogs on the street who knew the score would have been free to howl about it. And, however much Caroline emphasised the amicable nature of the split, the unavoidable impression was that her first big splash into the public consciousness would be as a woman scorned.

Yet, while the concomitant 'fury' seemed curiously absent, it is clear that it was emotional hurt rather than cynical calculation that drove Caroline to go public last week. In one fell swoop she outstrode the rumours –there had been talk of anonymous letters being sent to media outlets – and fired a warning shot, both public and private, to those who might have thought that she no longer rules the roost in the Desmond household: to the banks and business rivals, to the acquaintances who allowed her to carry on in ignorant bliss, and most of all, perhaps, to the women with whom her husband had been carrying on.

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