Wednesday, November 02, 2005


1921 Treaty talks were a boozefest

Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith were drinking excessively throughout crucial Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations in London in December 1921, according to recently-published memoirs of former Irish government minister and Nobel Peace prizewinner Sean MacBride.

MacBride was a lowly courier at the crucial talks, which led to a British commitment to withdraw and the setting up of the Free State. Says McBride:

"My colleagues did far too much drinking, everybody, Collins included. There were bottles of whiskey around the place and everybody went to help themselves whenever they wanted."

"I was rather horrified when I learned that Griffith (founder of Sinn Fein) was also drinking," wrote McBride of the man seen as the most sober and serious member of the Irish negotiation team.

"The drinking was excessive and I became conscious of this rapidly," he says in a book published posthumously this week.

"I was rather revolted by it, though I did drink a good deal with them.

"But I felt it was having a bad influence on the delegation - on Collins, on Dan McCarthy and Eamon Duggan. I felt that they were letting down the country, that matters were not being taken sufficiently seriously."

McBride said that he learned subsequently that Michael Collins was also going out a good deal from his London base because he "had some relationship with a woman" at the time of the negotiations.

"I have heard the accounts of the various houses visited by Collins and other members of the delegation in London, but I was not aware of any of this.

"What I do remember were the long sessions of drinking at night by my colleagues, and sometimes by Collins and Dan McCarthy."

Speaking of Griffith, McBride says:

"I remember there was a great 'hoo-hoo' on one occasion: Arthur Griffith had gone off with a couple of the girl secretaries, Miss Lyons and somebody else, to the theatre. They had lost their way on the Tube."

Dear oh dear. What can you say? Is it a true account? Who knows, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if it was. Only in this country could people turn such an important moment in a history into a massive party! You can just picture the following scene, can't you:

Lloyd George: Alright gentleman, I think that just about wraps up busin-

Collins: Hold on, ye miserable shite. We have one more demand.

Lloyd George: We already told you, the Oath of Allegiance stands.

Collins: Not that ya langer - we demand more whiskey!

Churchill: Piss off, it's mine!

Oh to be Irish, eh? I need a drink...


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