Monday, December 22, 2003

Romantic Ireland is dead and gone

Last week was a tough one for two of the Republic's treasured national institutions. First, our police force had to watch their prime suspect in a high-profile murder case do a better job of implicating himself during his deeply ill-advised libel case than their investigative work had managed to do. And that same week, the island's peace process continued its reliance on Canadians to handle delicate law enforcement issues, when Judge Peter Cory completed his report on alleged collusion between security forces on both sides of the border and outlawed paramilitary groups.

The Republic was much quicker to make the judge's report public than their counterparts in Britain -- which probably says more about their zeal to embarrass Sinn Fein than any genuine committment to openness. One of the cases the judge looked into was a suspiciously well-timed attack on two senior police officers from Northern Ireland, which occurred almost immediately after they crossed the border on the return trip from a meeting in the Republic -- a meeting which had only been arranged a few hours beforehand and known only to a select few in each police force. In other words, speculates the judge, it looks like someone in the Republic's police force tipped off the IRA about some "High Value Targets" (as the American military would say). Further investigation is planned.

And what of this other treasured Irish institution that had a tough week? We speak of course of Manchester United Football Club, which from the First Fan (Taoiseach Bertie Ahern) on down, form an object of almost religious veneration for the Irish public. It made world headlines when star defender Rio Ferdinand was suspended for eight months for failing to appear for a drug test. But Saturday's Irish Times compounded the shame for the club by revealing just how money-grubbing things can get at the World's Biggest Football Club:

Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, has confirmed he received [Irish Pounds] 97,973 from the John Durkan Leukaemia Trust after appearing with four players at a function it organised in the Berkeley Hotel, Dublin, in the autumn of 1999. This was half the money raised on the night.

The four MUFC players who appeared didn't get any cash -- but because they believed themselves to be attending a fund-raiser for "Sir" Alex, not the Irish charity! The players considered the event to be a "testimonial" for their manager -- testimonials are a holdover from the days when football salaries were truly terrible, and retiring players and managers would have some fund-raisers in their farewell seasons to get them a retirement fund. But the tradition continues even as salaries have gone through the roof -- and in this case, even when "Sir" Alex later changed his mind about retiring. The affair has only now come to light because the charity was trying to squelch the details of the event. It looks to us like this little event was co-opted by some MUFC fans, who saw a way to leverage their donors' money into a chance for them to spend the evening with their heroes. And given that we've blogged before about the Republic's Oirish tax-dodging upper classes, can this detail be any surprise?

Around 500 people drawn from the racing and bloodstock industries attended the function. The guests included the National Hunt racing owner, Mr J.P. McManus.

Check the blog GUBU for a well-timed rant about Mr McManus and his ilk.

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