“Gorbomania” has swept the country
US ambassador to Ireland Margaret Heckler didn’t know we’re masters at oiling pragmatism with plamás
Big crowds turned out to catch a glimpse of the glamorous Mrs Gorbachev, who toured Bunratty Folk Park while her husband discussed global politics with the taoiseach. Raisa and the political wives were conveyed by limousine to look at thatched cottages and a man driving a horse and cart.
Haughey adored every minute of his Soviet-Irish summit. He agreed with his distinguished visitor that we needed a Europe from “the edge of the Atlantic to the Urals” and spoke of “linking the Volga to the Shannon”. They discussed global issues and Haughey asked the president for a “progress report” on his plan of Perestroika.
“Haughey’s advisers tell us he is elated,” wrote Heckler. And then some, one imagines.
CJH, shooting the breeze with a fellow international political titan while the likes of Albert Reynolds and Gerry Collins waited outside, along with half of Leinster House and the whole of Clare County Council.
They toasted one other with Irish coffees. Afterwards, an enthralled Haughey delivered his verdict: he found Gorbachev “stimulating and very interesting” and the meeting was “successful”.
Things couldn’t have gone any better. Haughey revealed that his guest from Moscow was not merely impressed by the Irish weather, but “very ecstatic” about it.
The Taoiseach invited Gorbachev to come back for another visit and he said he would.
And he did, but it wasn’t for a number of years when both men were gone from power. Then taoiseach Bertie Ahern took him on a tour of Dublin’s Meath Street, which included a look inside a butcher’s shop. The locals cheered and instantly christened him “Mr Gorbychops”.
The welcome for the president of the USSR came from across the political spectrum.
Proinsias de Rossa, then leader of the Workers’ Party, said Gorbachev “had won the affection and admiration not just of socialists and communists but of all those who would like to see a just and lasting peace”.
Limerick’s Jim Kemmy, president of the Democratic Socialist Party, was quoted thus: “I never thought I’d live to see the day – and not an anti-communist bleat out of anyone.”
As for Haughey, how he must have loved it when the leader of the Soviet superpower spoke of “a meeting of equals”. Mikhail and Charlie, two small men, striding along shoulder to shoulder – one wearing a fedora and the other a Charvet shirt.
Elated? They probably had to hose him down after the jet departed. At least Haughey was happy.
But if Uncle Sam’s nose was out of joint, he could still look down it at us while pondering “Gorbomania” and the success of the Soviet charm offensive on the Auld Sod.