Forgotten memories

Mar 28th, 2010 | By | Category: Ireland

A friend lent me a book about security force collusion with terrorists during the Troubles; the writer, a journalist who had made major documentaries for British television and had written for an Irish newspaper had published the book privately.  No publisher would contemplate its publication for fear of litigation.

How many stories just disappear, because they are suppressed by those in charge, or because of fear of being sued, or maybe because the writer loses confidence in the veracity of the story?

There is a belief that the suppression of stories has become impossible.  Certainly, everything from the humble mobile phone in an individual’s pocket to the all-embracing world wide web can ensure that events are around the world in seconds.  But stories do disappear; or are relegated to the realms of the wacko and the conspiracy theorists, to be counted amongst the New World Order, the Illuminati, and other stories from the Fruitcake Zone.

A memory, real or imagined, from three decades ago is reading a news report in late August 1982 that the Irish military were contemplating intervening if the general election anticipated for that autumn proved indecisive?

There had already been elections in June of 1981 and in February 1982 and the expected poll would have been the third time in which the country had voted in eighteen months.  The government seemed mired in controversy and the opposition certainly perceived the election campaign they were to fight in terms of a crusade, but was there really a story about the army?

Anyone familiar with the Irish army would have known that the suggestion was not credible, but, if there was such a story, where did it come from?

In the memory, the story is printed in the Irish edition of a British Sunday paper, and I read it sitting on the grass close to the fort at Summer Cove outside of Kinsale in Co Cork.  It would seem odd to have a clear recall of a story that never existed in the first place? Why imagine a story that one’s college education would have said couldn’t have been?

ObserverMaybe the story was no more than a piece of Paddywhackery by an English journalist who thought it fun to suggest that the Irish might have a coup, but why, when I searched for the story, was it nowhere to be found?

Tending recently to the view that the whole thing was imagined; to the conclusion  that thought of army intervention in Dublin must have arisen from the conflation of two stories, that political instability in Ireland and the threat of a coup elsewhere had become muddled; a photograph appeared amongst those in the attic.  It is taken at Summer Cove, Kinsale.  A group of friends had gone swimming and I had been thrown into the sea in my clothes; I had retreated to the shore and had sat to read a newspaper.  The photograph is from not 1982, but from Sunday, 6th September 1981.  Was the story in that paper?  Was the memory faulty by a year?  Were things so unstable after the June 1981 election and the hunger strikes that intervention had been rumoured?  Maybe it is too much of a story to have been imagined.

Leave a comment »

  1. Your memory is not as impaired as you might think. I too have memories of the 70s and 80s. The story about the army taking over was put forward many times. But I don’t imagine for one moment that it was a “story by an English journalist”.
    Qui bono? It is to the benefit of the political establishment to have such a story abroad. Bad times. Stardust, hunger strikes, financial chaos. Where better to plant the seed thn in the head of a young man reading the paper on the beach. Shoeless to show his carefree nature. While all around is a whrlwind of rumour.
    Bring in the army. Pour encourager les autres. Stiffen our resolve. Trust the system.
    It’s not your bad memory – it’s a good memory! Huxley or Orwell would have loved the notion of seeding memories.
    Don’t worry, my own memory is woefully inadequate.

  2. Googling ‘Irish army’ and ‘coup’, the only reference I could find was to rumours in 1969-70

    Shoeless? Because he had been thrown into the sea. Carefree? Would reading the Observer mark one out as carefree?

  3. On the subject of stories that never make the news. I’m reading the depressing book Flat Earth News bz Nick Davies. Leaving aside all malice, bribery and corruption – the almost all-pervasive problem is that journalism has become “churnalism” – with the staff churning it out so fast, for different editions and news platforms, with fewer colleagues and little time to check anything.
    As for the coup, I’ve never heard of it as far as I can remember. But there used to be lots of speculative and fanciful stories filling new columns on the basis of dodgy tip-offs.

  4. Churnalism seems necessary to fill the rolling news channels. BBC and Sky News reporters seem trained in putting on a voice that makes every minor event sound as if it is of world importance.

  5. Shoeless. Picture doesn’t lie. Observer? In Kinsale? c 1982? Picture does lie.

Leave Comment