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Thanks 'Union Jack' for the best of times

Letters to the Editor


Jack Charlton as Republic of Ireland manager

Jack Charlton as Republic of Ireland manager


Jack Charlton as Republic of Ireland manager

Sir - It was the worst of times, but he gave us the best of times. I remember so well that day in March 1986, watching Ireland lose to Wales - Jack's first match and the beginning of an odyssey which took me and the nation on a journey and joy of a lifetime.

A sparse stadium greeted its new manager. Some in the crowd booed and I remember one lonely banner which read "Go Home Union Jack".

At the end of Jack's reign that banner-waver probably cried. Jack did go home, but he left his heart here and we gave him ours.

As the Covid pandemic will stop Irish fans travelling to Jack's funeral, perhaps the President should go to represent the Irish people? It would be true representation of a nation's gratitude and love for a man who gave us such joy and bridged a centuries-old divide.

Like the golden days of our youth, Jack's reign was like one long glorious summer, the rainy days forgotten. To Jack's wife and family, the deepest sympathies go, and the most heartfelt thanks. We will miss him too.

John Naylor,

Walkinstown, Dublin


Hand in hand with Lady Luck

Sir - It's a Saturday afternoon in early 1988 and Eoin Hand is being interviewed on Sports Stadium. When asked about the recent success of Jack Charlton and the Euro '88 qualification, he alludes to "the rub of the green".

Hand's Ireland had been desperately unlucky not to qualify for the 1982 World Cup, courtesy of one particularly dreadful refereeing performance in a 1-0 defeat in Brussels. This was in a group containing Euro '80 finalists Belgium, 1978 World Cup finalists Holland and the emerging French team of Platini, Tigana and Giresse.

Lady Luck, however, seems to have cleaned Jack's hot-seat before he even sat in it.

It's February 1986 and at No 80 Merrion Square, Dublin, the FAI executive is voting for a new manager. The initial shortlist had been Billy McNeill, Jack Charlton and Liam Tuohy.

Billy McNeill is soon ruled out because Manchester City are playing hardball over terms. Des Casey then starts the meeting by introducing two new candidates, Johnny Giles and Bob Paisley.

The first vote sees Paisley with nine votes and Charlton, Giles and Tuohy with three each. Tuohy is eliminated and the next ballot has Paisley with nine, Charlton with five and Giles four. Giles is eliminated and on the third ballot things go pear-shaped - Giles's votes go to Charlton and a Paisley supporter does a U-turn and opts for Charlton, who wins 10-8.

It's November 11, 1987, and at the Vasil Levski Stadium in Sofia, Andy Roxburgh's injury-ravaged squad has handed a 22-year-old Gary Mackay his first cap for Scotland, the first of four. Bulgaria only need to avoid defeat against a Scottish team that cannot buy a win away from home... but the unthinkable happens. With eight minutes to go, Mackay swoops for his one and only international goal and in the process becomes Ireland's second patron saint.

It's Genoa, Italy, in the summer of 1990 and in Group F, "the group of sleep", Ireland, England, Holland and Egypt have been keeping the world enthralled by drawing with each other - until England manage to register the only win in the group and finish top. Ireland and Holland have to draw lots to see who finishes second and third. Charlton's guardian angel appears and Ireland get second spot and a date with Romania.

Oh Eoin! I bet you would have taken anyone's hand off for even one of those blessings!

Matt McLoughlin,

Culfadda, Co Sligo


Cross words in Micheal's Cabinet

Sir - I didn't get around to doing last week's Quizword until Wednesday. And I saw the clue for 2 down was "Current Minister for Agriculture and Marine (5 letters)".

But Calleary doesn't fit.

I suppose a week is a long time in politics.

Kevin Costello,

Nenagh, Co Tipperary


Cowen thrown to the dogs of politics

Sir - The fate of Barry Cowen serves as a shocking reminder that politics is akin to a bloodsport. I recall the late Liam Cosgrave slamming his political adversaries as "mongrel foxes", adding: "They are gone to ground - but I'll dig them out, and the pack will chop them."

Cowen was metaphorically dug out and thrown to the hounds, after a short if agonising chase. Ironically, he is one of many TDs, present and past, who support hare coursing.

So, while I empathise with Cowen on one level, and dislike seeing any politician fall from grace or lose his seat in an election, I see their plight as puny indeed beside that of the iconic Irish hare which continues to be hounded and killed by our political establishment.

John Fitzgerald,

Callan, Co Kilkenny


Memories of spuds in the sunshine

Sir - Reading Brendan O'Connor's article in last Sunday's Living section regarding the "new spuds of west Cork", I was transported back to the late 1970s and early 1980s and many wonderful holidays in Clonakilty and Rosscarbery.

We left Co Kildare on a Friday evening, car packed, four children in the back jostling for space (no seatbelts) and a picnic packed to have on the way, usually around Mitchelstown if they could last that long.

On the way from Rosscarbery to Clonakilty, just at the bottom of the hill, an elderly man sat, selling spuds from a bucket. The spuds were freshly dug and nothing could compare to them.

Then on to Clonakilty for the Fields bread. Only problem was, when the holidays were over, there was never enough room in the boot to squeeze in a few buckets of spuds or few Fields sliced pans.

Happy memories of wonderful holidays. As I look out at this miserable July evening, I seem to remember the sun was always shining then.

Kay Coughlan,

Leixlip, Co Kildare


Keep your precious dogs close and safe

Sir - As well as this awful pandemic there is another scourge currently sweeping the country - dog stealing.

It has become big business and last week we learned of the theft of Daisy, an adorable Springer Spaniel stolen from her loving family in Co Wexford.

Not content with stealing Daisy, the thieves took her seven puppies. Daisy was found on a roadside 100 miles away a few days later, minus her seven pups and her microchip, ripped out of her with a sharp knife. I heard her owner on the radio say: "It's heartbreaking - she's going around looking for her babies."

Grief at losing what is almost a family member can be overwhelming. If you love your dog, don't let it out of your sight.

Mike Burke,

Sixmilebridge, Co Clare


Requiem for our Giant

Like Moses coming down the Mount,

Jack Charlton came amongst us,

Not a man for ceremony,

or any formal fuss.

He had no frills personified,

in his plain Geordie way,

And brought us joy and great success,

way back in the day.


When silver heads all heard the news,

that Big Jack had died,

Their hearts choked with memories,

and salt tears filled their eyes.

Like Moses with the Israelites,

he unified a nation,

Into a state of self-belief,

and crazy celebrations.


Moses had 10 commandments,

but Jack had just the one,

Put ’em under pressure,

and then get the job done.


For eight hundred years or more,

we loathed the Sassenach,

For they sent us Tans and Cromwell,

and then along came Jack.


He lifted us by our scruffy necks,

and imposed his football will,

To put the ball behind them,

and then go in for the kill.

He liked to fish and have a pint,

and understood the craic,

And when we hear Ole Ole,

memories come flooding back.


He gave us pride and glory,

in a gallant team of green,

But most of all, he showed the way,

and we dared to dream.

He was an English hero,

when he won them the World Cup,

But we took him to our hearts,

and soon made him one of us.

Nicky Barry, Killarney, Co Kerry


Prejudice shows in many forms

Sir — I see the Washington Redskins are going to change their name due to its upsetting connotations with prejudice.

Any chance that the same attention might come to bear on such derogatory names as rednecks, culchies, boggers, biffos et al? Or is it like James McClean says, people only get exercised about certain abuse while blatantly ignoring inappropriate behaviour much closer to their own experience?

Aileen Hooper,

Stoneybatter, Dublin 7


Humble fada has a noble purpose

Sir — I note from your reply to a recent letter to your paper that the fada will be appearing in the paper from August 9.

As the writer wrote, the absence of the fada changes the sound of the word completely. It will be good to see the humble fada get the respect it deserves.

If you could now use your influence to bring home to all our radio and television presenters that our national Parliament is not the “Doll” and the main political party in the current coalition Government is not “Fianna Fall” you would be dealing another blow in the defence of our native tongue.

Patrick Sneyd,

Tallaght, Dublin 24


Teachers require clear guidelines

Sir — Someone should tell your correspondent from Wicklow town that needing guidance and guidelines isn’t a whinge.

Her letter in last week’s Sunday Independent showed a lack of understanding of the difficulties of implementing the HSE mantra — “Stay safe. Protect each other” — in a school environment.

Five days before the pubs were due to open on July 20, the publicans had no guidelines.

Masks became obligatory on public transport before the drivers were informed who would be policing the new initiative.

Teachers, like all other employers and employees, need to ensure the safety of all when at work. What everyone needs are clear guidelines — and when it’s a matter of the health and safety you’re not whingeing.

Mary Walsh,

Cork city


Old school habits alive and kicking

Sir — With reference to the letter ‘On a whinge and a prayer’ in last Sunday’s paper, I must say that I was heartened to see that good, old-fashioned jealousy and teacher-bashing is alive and well in post-lockdown Ireland.

Bridget Kenny,



Book lifts shutters on the 1970 Arms Crisis

Sir — If I were a teacher assessing Eoghan Harris’s review of my book (The Arms Crisis of 1970 — The Plot That Never Was), I would advise the student to pay more attention in class.

His piece is a loosely phrased polemic, while the book he derides is a work of careful scholarship, the product ultimately of years of full-time academic research. Readers need to check its new data for themselves, as Harris, unfortunately, is a poor guide. He misrepresents the February 6 directive. He misrepresents the government’s decision to allocate money as aid to Northern nationalists, given with no strings attached. He misrepresents Haughey’s fateful phone call to Peter Berry. He misrepresents Neil Blaney. His slandering of James Kelly is something I thought we had outgrown. He has no understanding of the courageous Michael Hefferon. And above all, he virtually ignores James Gibbons, the minister for defence.

Although my book has much shocking new data on Lynch, including his serial deceptions, it is actually mainly about Gibbons and his duplicity. If your critic has actually read the damning chapter entitled ‘Gibbons’s Deceits’, he disguises it well. And why does he ignore the arms trials? The book has ground-breaking evidence suggesting these should never have been, while showing that Gibbons was improperly protected from prosecution by Lynch’s attorney-general.

Here are several fundamentals from the book that Harris fails to acknowledge.

On the gun-running project: it was not originated by either Haughey or Blaney; strictly speaking, it was only indirectly an Irish government project. The February 6, 1970 directive did not directly authorise an arms importation, but it stated clearly that the government had an ‘‘agreed’’ policy of providing arms to Northerners. These were not for any ‘‘insane invasion’’, as Harris asserts, but to protect nationalist ‘‘kith and kin’’, in extremis.

Haughey’s fateful phone call to Peter Berry was not the act of a guilty man, since it lacked what lawyers call a mens rea. The idea that Haughey would ring such a senior public servant, whom he knew well, to facilitate a supposedly illegal plot to arm the IRA, is a joke. All of this, and much more, Harris ignores or distorts.

For 50 years people have not been told the truth about 1969-70. My book lifts the shutters, which is why it is a bestseller; sadly, Eoghan Harris would prefer the blinds to be locked down and bolted.

Michael Heney,

Author of The Arms Crisis of 1970 — The Plot That Never Was


The game plan for Jack Lynch

Sir — Reading Eoghan Harris’s piece last Sunday was instructive of his interpretation of the complicated events of the 1970 Arms Crisis. It seems obvious that Harris is in the category of those who credit Jack Lynch with steering the State away from a hypothetically disastrous incursion into Northern Ireland.

That narrative is very popular, but the facts are that the trial jury came back, fairly quickly, with a verdict of acquittal, having asked a final question of the judge as to whether Col Hefferon had said that the February 6 directive to the Defence Forces “ordered the provision of arms against the contingency of possibly distributing them to civilians in Northern Ireland”, to which the judge’s answer was “yes”.

There has been much debate of the phrase “for the use of the Defence Forces”, but it seems the jury felt that if there was generic approval at departmental level then the defendants were within their rights to act as they did.

It seems to me that when Cosgrave came to Lynch with the anonymous note on May 5, the latter was forced to portray a renouncement of any scintilla of illegality, but crucially, at the same time, saving the Fianna Fail government. At the time of the ministerial sackings, Lynch would have had the support of (1) his party supporters (2) Cosgrave and Corish (3) the British and, most probably “middle Ireland”.

He prevailed, at a price, and then, in Heney’s words, “Lynch felt obliged to dissimulate, and ultimately he engaged in a cover up of the directive’s full contents”.

It appears Lynch was playing “ground” hurling, a game he was familiar with.

Sean Seartan,

Shanakiel, Cork city

Sunday Independent