“Some German shepherds are now too nervous,” says Inspector Holder, justifying in The Guardian the British state’s dog breeding programme (merci au Big F). Impressed? Then wait till you hear how Irish politicians nattered and gambled their way through the 50s and 60s, while preserving the nation from communist stallions.
It is possible that you will consider none of the following amusing. If that it the case, then try this 1976 list of businesses with Irish state participation for starters:
Aer Lingus, Teoranta
Aerlínte Éireann, Teoranta
Aer Rianta, Teoranta
The Agricultural Credit Corporation, Limited
Bord na Móna
British & Irish Steam Packet Company Limited
Comhlucht Siúicre Éireann, Teoranta
Córas Iompair Éireann
Dairy Disposal Company Limited
Electricity Supply Board
Industrial Credit Company, Limited
Irish Life Assurance Company Limited
The Irish National Stud Company Limited
Irish Shipping Limited
Irish Steel Holdings Limited
Min Fhéir (1959) Teoranta
National Building Agency Limited
Nítrigin Éireann Teoranta
Óstlanna Iompair Éireann Teoranta
Pigs and Bacon Commission
Radio Telefís Éireann
Voluntary Health Insurance Board
Wednesday at 3:40, I will be saying ‘what did I Tulyar’ read jockey Charlie Smirke’s famous telegram to the gentlemen of the press gathered for lunch before the 1952 Derby. Tulyar duly won the race, beating a young Lester Piggott on Gay Time. And then Tulyar’s owner, the Aga Khan, started looking for a buyer, preferably in the British Isles in order to counter bitterness re the sale of previous Derby winners to the States.
The Irish National Stud was acquired from the British in 1945 and was premised on the same basic folklore as British . It was, however, different. One difference that might appear salient to those of you with an advanced understanding of horse-breeding was the omission of one particular type of asset from the sale of the Kildare estate: the horses. However, this was not regarded as any particular disadvantage as it left Irish ministers and civil servants at the time to do what, with the exception of pork distribution, they did best: horse trading.
Tulyar was thus acquired from the Aga Khan, total costs being £263,570, a not inconsiderable sum at the time. Net receipts, including the sale price, were £266,400 when it was sold a couple of years later, a figure which might have been higher had the horse been offered to more than one purchaser in a public sale. But then it was never about the money, was it.
At first ministers would point out that soon, pretty soon, the beneficial results of Tulyar’s genes would be seen on the racecourse, and that this was the real benefit to the Irish nation. Pretty soon, however, it became clear that this was not going to happen, ever, and mention of Tulyar thereafter became a trigger for general silliness.
In 1969, finance minister Haughey, shortly to go on trial for IRA gun-running, was nudging through a bill to increase the stud’s share capital in order to finance Ireland’s next flutter. Liam Cosgrave has just brought up Tulyar, leading to the following bizarre exchange between Haughey and the Labour Party spokesman:
Dr. Thornley: I would be the last to pretend to any expert knowledge of the bloodstock industry, but … I should like very simply and briefly to say that the Labour Party also accept and welcome this Bill. We think this is a most important major industry in Ireland, and more particularly it is a prestige industry of the kind which, perhaps, a small country like ours can most successfully sustain. […] We are very glad to see an instance in which a public enterprise can compete with private enterprises in the same sphere without, in that process, inducting alien Marxist or Maoist philosophies into the horses of Ireland.
Mr. Haughey: Touché.
Dr. Thornley: I thank the Minister. [Suggests state intervention in foods and steel.] We support [the bill] and we trust that if and when the contingency arises that the National Stud acquires its prestige stallion they will similarly be able to do so in the interests of the State without bringing in foreign influences of one kind or another.
Mr. Haughey: We might have to bring in an alien stallion.
Dr. Thornley: As long as it was not a communist stallion.
Getting Thornley onside was peanuts for a politician of Haughey’s talent – this was an age when even turkeys were in favour of Christmas – which is why I tend to prefer debates from the 50s, when ideology was less acknowledged and personal and regional enmity more so. Here’s a quick selection of excerpts from one (1) meeting of the Dáil finance committee in 1955, which new boy Donagh O’Malley is holding up by reading extended and completely irrelevant extracts from the Limerick press, presumably with the purpose of getting himself the odd free lunch with editors back in his constituency:
Mr. O’Malley: If there was an election in Dublin in the morning, God forbid–
Mr. S. Collins: You would be belted sore.
Mr. O’Malley: And you would not have the Lord Mayor running up and down Cabra with a loaf on a stick.
Mr. O’Leary: Try Limerick yourself in the morning.
Mr. O’Malley: Céard é?
Mr. O’Leary: Try Limerick yourself and see what happens.
Mr. O’Malley: I beg the Deputy’s pardon. I did not hear him at first. I am very glad to see him restored to health and to notice that he has not lost any of his capacity for interruption.
Mr. Carter: I would direct the attention of the Chairman of the Licensed Grocers’ and Vintners’ Association to the first act of the present Government when they brought in the Finance Bill of 1954 and when Deputy Lemass on this side of the House then challenged them with the windy promises they had made around the streets of Dublin regarding the poor man’s pint. At that time their speeches swept through the main streets like a low wind in Jamaica.
Mr. S. Collins: From whom are we quoting now?
Mr. Carter: They not alone promised that–
Mr. S. Collins: Like what?
Mr. Carter: If the Deputy would fix his blinkers and listen–
Mr. Coogan: Deputy Carter would want his blinkers, too.
Mr. Carter: They not only promised cheaper porter but cheaper spirits, tobacco and cigarettes.
Mr. S. Collins: And rum from Jamaica.
Mr. O’Malley: A quotation was read out wherein the Minister for Defence is alleged to have promised that in future rates would not increase.
Mr. S. Collins: The statement was made but no quotation was read.
Mr. O’Malley: Then I will read it. The Minister for Defence was reported in the Sligo Champion of 20th March, 1954, as saying:- “Fine Gael, if returned to office, would take steps to see to it that the Central Fund would take responsibility for all future expenditure and the existing expenditure at present being met by the local authorities.”
Mr. S. Collins: That is a different statement from the one the Deputy was whistling about a moment ago.
Mr. O’Malley: What is different about it?
Mr. S. Collins: Read it again and it might sink in.
Be that as it may,
Mr. T.F. O’Higgins: In 1955, I think I am correct in saying for the first time in history, an Irish Minister for Finance was able so to arrange matters that the Irish bank rate did not follow the British bank rate. That is another factor which must be taken into account when considering the framework and the background of the present Budget.
Mr. O’Malley: To arrange matters?
Mr. T.F. O’Higgins: “So to arrange matters.”
Mr. O’Malley: Oh, “so to arrange.”
Mr. Lindsay: What is the difference?
Mr. T.F. O’Higgins: It satisfied Deputy O’Malley.
Mr. Allen: [T]he present Minister for Social Welfare … said: “For that reason, the first point in the election programme of the Labour Party was the reduction of food prices and the use of subsidies on essential articles of food to achieve this objective. Labour was very definitely committed to that.”
Mr. Corish: What is wrong with that?
Mr. Allen: There is nothing wrong except that it has not been carried out.
Mr. Corish: It has, of course.
Mr. Allen: “Essential articles of food” is plural.
Mr. Corish: We are doing it with tea and with butter.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle [ie the Chair]: The Minister should cease interrupting.
Mr. Allen: If you include Kathleen Mavourneen tea-
Mr. O’Leary: It is a wonder you drink it at all.
My favourite deputy is independence war veteran General Seán MacEoin. You can sense the chamber pausing in bewilderment after his every utterance:
Mr. Derrig: The financial situation was quite different.
General MacEoin: That is the truest word the Deputy has ever spoken.
Mr. Derrig: We did not say we would not interfere with food subsidies. The Deputy is changing now.
Mr. M.J. O’Higgins: “To maintain subsidies, to control the price of essential foodstuffs.”
General MacEoin: “To maintain” means no change.
Mr. O’Malley: As the Deputy has glossed over the reasons for the imposition of taxation by Fianna Fáil, would he state what was the deficit in the balance of payments when we assumed office after 1951 and what the deficit is this year?
General MacEoin: Your leader told us that in Fermoy. The surplus was £24,000,000, so do not contradict the boss.
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