Hung over Hurd: State papers reveal

Douglas Hurd Hung over Hurd: State papers reveal
Dick Spring and Douglas Hurd

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s then newly-appointed Northern Ireland Secretary Douglas Hurd was so hung over after his first meeting with Irish ministers he had to be taken for a walk in the park in Dublin, newly released State papers from 1984 reveal.

The papers are among those of the then Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald released in Dublin to coincide with the annual release of UK Cabinet papers by the National Archive in Kew under the 30-year rule.

After his first meeting with Ireland’s Foreign Minister Peter Barry, Tanaiste Dick Spring and other Irish ministers and officials his hangover was so bad he had to be “taken out and walked around” a Dublin park the next morning, Ireland’s Ambassador to the UK at the time Noel Dorr reported to Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald.

Mr. Dorr had been told this by Mr Hurd’s then political adviser, Edward Bickham, at a private dinner in London a few months after the initial meeting.

“He confirmed that Hurd thought that he had not really ‘gelled’ at his initial meeting with our Minister in Dublin on October 25 (1984),” Mr Dorr wrote to then-Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald.

“(Bickham mentioned incidentally that Hurd had had quite a hangover after that visit and had to be taken out and walked around the park the next day!).”

Mr Bickham, was described as close to the Secretary of State and well-informed on Northern Ireland issues.

He was said to be concerned to confirm that the ministerial summit on February 4, 1985 had gone well “at a personal level” while he also revealed that Mr Hurd was worried about how he was viewed in Ireland.

Ambassador Dorr said he told the adviser: “In response to his general interest in how Hurd appeared in the South I said – suitably tactfully – that it was something of an advantage to Hurd to have started rather badly since he ‘had nowhere to go but up’.”

Mr Hurd was also said to be “beginning to enjoy his job” after five months in office and was “fascinated by his responsibilities”.

Mr Dorr added: “Bickham said to me that the fundamental question (for Hurd) is whether anything can be done to improve the situation – or should it simply be kept ‘ticking over’?”

Mr Hurd, who went on to hold the Cabinet posts of Home Secretary (1985-1989) and Foreign Secretary (1989-1995), was considered by Ambassador Dorr to hold significant influence in the Conservative Party and “could get through the party more or less what he wants, within reason”.

Mr Dorr added: “Accordingly he is considering action, in conjunction with Dublin rather than just ‘marking time’.”


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