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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: April 1, 2011 @ 9:46 am

    The essence of politics is…timing

    Mary Minihan

    Former British Labour MP Chris Mullin, probably best known here as the tenacious campaigner who exposed the miscarriage of justice inflicted on the Birmingham Six, delivered a humorous talk in Dublin earlier this week. He said while most politicians fight one election too many, he got out of politics early – “when people were still asking ‘why?’ rather than ‘when’?”

    While signing copies of his published diaries afterwards, Mullin was approached by a gentleman associated with the (Irish) Labour Party who asked him to inscribe a book for the party’s new press director. “Certainly,” said Mullin, “what’s the name?” “Er, we don’t know yet,” was the response.

    Tony Heffernan, Labour’s long-serving press director, will take early retirement next week despite being a cert to be named as the party’s spokesperson in Government. He will be a great loss to the party, and indeed to reporters, because of his deep knowledge of party policy and structures, as well as his impressive memory. One of his co-workers described him as a “walking wikipedia” recently.

    And you have to take your hat off to anyone in politics with the wisdom to end a long and distinguished career – no doubt punctuated by many moments of disappointment over the years – on a high.

    (Gossip around Leinster House says the position could be offered to public relations consultants Ronan Farren or Mark Brennock. Mr Farren, a former Labour press officer and son of the SDLP’s Sean Farren, works for Q4 public relations. Mr Brennock, a former Irish Times political correspondent, is director of public affairs with Murray Consultants.)

    • a.commenter says:

      ‘Error of Judgment’ was indeed a seminal work anhad it not been for Chris Mullin and ENGLISH lawyers the Guildford 4 and the Birmingham 6 would have died in prison.
      It is ironic that the Irish Establishment of which the Irish Times is undoubtedly a part, is now, rightly, feting Mr Mullin. At the time no member of the Irish Parliament or legal profession would touch what became known as the ‘Irish Cases’…
      It took heroic civil liberties lawyers and MP’s like Chris Mullin, who probably sacrificed his political career in the process, to do what the Irish Establishment would not… Out of sight out of mind…the Irish answer to the Irish problem of the Diaspora…
      The tenacity of the ‘few good men’, and at least one extraordinary woman Gareth Pierce, to make sure justice was done was a defining moment in English Law…and one that changed the legal landscape forever making sure safeguards were introduced to protect those held in custody…the brutal treatment of these men and the Guildford 4 in police custody was nothing short of torture..
      Anyone who has not read this book should go out and buy one immediately…

    • a.commenter says:

      Following on from my last point… ‘timimg’ as you say is everything..it seems time has sanitised the ‘Irish Cases’ sufficiently for them to be mentioned in polite society…

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      Is it too much to expect the position- or any of the positions available in the new government – would be advertised so that anyone with an interest and suitable qualifications could apply or will Labour revert to type and give it to someone who is ‘owed’ or did some favour for Gilmore or the leadership.

    • a.commenter says:

      The other equally compelling and ‘companion’ read to Mullins’ is Robert Kee’s ‘Trial and Error’…
      Incidentally…but by no coincidence the same English civil liberties lawyers that righted the miscarriages of Justice in the ‘Irish Cases’ were by and large those who righted the Miscarriage of Justice on Bloody Sunday resulting in the Savile Report…Occasionally you find yourself in the company of greatness it is a humbling experience…

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