Friday, May 21, 2010

Drunk on power

John Charles McQuaid was rarely drunk on power, but he was seldom sober. The Archbishop was used to getting things his own way, but on an October day in 1955 over twenty thousand people turned out to let Ireland’s most powerful cleric know he was over the limit.

This fantastic quote is taken from GUBU Nation by Damian Corless a collection of short essays detailing some of the more ‘grotesque, unbelievable, bizarre and unprecedented’ things to have happened in Ireland’s post-independence history. This particular essay concerns a visit to Ireland by Yugoslavia’s soccer team to play a friendly match. Slighted by the fact that he was not consulted about the match (as he had been three years earlier) and no fan of ‘foreign games’, Archbishop McQuaid mobilised his influence to try and get the match cancelled. First, the Department of Justice told the Football Association of Ireland that they would need to seek permission for the players to enter the country (the first time they’d ever had to do such a thing). Second, the Army band withdrew their services. Third, the FAI were bombarded with public criticism from the forces of Catholicism and its various agencies. One of these groups even wrote to all the Yugoslav players to tell them that they were not welcome. Feeling the pressure, the national broadcaster withdrew its radio coverage. The Yugoslav team arrived at Dublin airport to be met by protestors at godless communism (although no such protest met a Russian delegation that had arrived in Ireland a month previously). The day before the match the Irish trainer withdrew from the game under pressure. The game went ahead and Ireland lost 4-1. McQuaid’s power is legendary and it is said that he got to read and edit all legislation before it was seen by most of the cabinet, let alone the Dail (the Irish parliament). Drunk on power indeed.

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