Bicentenary of Trinity Historical Society: From the Archives, March 7th, 1970

Series of events about Edmund Burke, one of its founders, attracted speeches by US senator Edward Kennedy, the pre-Arms Crisis finance minister, Charles Haughey, and taoiseach Jack Lynch and allowed John Healy to match them against Burke in his Backbencher column

 

Personally I’m glad we have discovered Edmund Burke again.

I agree, of course, it depends on which Edmund Burke you are talking about. Teddy Kennedy has him figured for a loser. Charlie Haughey, on the other hand, has him figured as a twin brother of Charlie Haughey.

And Honest Jack? Why Honest Jack sees him as the precursor of Mickeen Moran [Minister for Justice Micheál Ó Móráin] from Curradrish, a man as could pilot through the Criminal Justice Bill in 1970 with something of the urban polish of a rural Moran.

I think I must give Charlie the palm for the best application and pirating of the approved text.

Charlie did his thing on the arts kick, culled the appropriate bits and pieces from Burke’s many-sided life to show how he was, in fact, the Charlie Haughey of his day, patron of the arts, friend of artists, a man who was, said Charlie, courageous and controversial, one of the greatest political thinkers of all time, a formidable orator, a man whose words, no matter what the words, “had a kind of richness behind them”.

The great thing about good art and great painting is that you learn to walk away from it at the right time: you play for your subtle highlights against the dark masses and the great artist conveys the main highlight with the casual throwaway stroke or two.

Charlie, of course, may be of the primitive school – one of the pop-art boys who lay on paint zap, swish and zip, telegraphing everything. Which could explain why he was taking no chance with the traditionalists at the National Gallery on Monday night. Having worked up the main canvas, clearly showing the bulk of Burke echoes again in the local 1970 landscape by Charles J, he has to signpost it like this: “May I leave you with a quotation from Burke which, perhaps understandably, has for me its own special appeal?”

And here Charlie, reaching for the Naples Yellow, laid it in thick, by quoting from Burke as follows: “Those who would carry on great public schemes must be proof against the most fatiguing delays, the most mortifying disappointments, the most shocking insults and worst of all the presumptuous judgment of the ignorant upon their designs.”

But as Honest Jack said two nights later at the same Burke junketings, “living as we do in times when individualism often explodes into eccentricity and when each man must not only do his own thing but must be seen to be doing his own thing, I suppose it is inevitable that it seems to many a young blood that the only way he can go one better than his fellow is by going one worse than him”.

That’s something you’ll never catch Honest Jack doing, believe me.

The idea of Honest Jack doing his own thing fascinates me. I’m half tempted to jump in before our Literary Editor grabs the idea for one of his weekend diversions [competitions]. It seems inevitable that Terence [de Vere White, literary editor] will succumb to the temptation and I do urge my readers to have a go. I would merely remind you that, should I be called upon to judge the entries, I will look for originality.

I favour black humour, of course. I will give no marks for the smart aleck who suggests that Jack doing his own thing is really to sit and do nothing.

And no marks to anyone for repeating the greatest of all Burke clichés so beloved of some of my own readers: the conditions under which evil men can succeed. We will have no cynicism here: Honest Jack is a good man. Everyone says so.

The thought has struck me, however, that the sooner Trinity does another service to the nation the better.

Now that it has helped the lads to discover Burke and his writings, [it] would help no end if they staged a Tone Week to remind some of the new republicans in the House what Tone was all about. There is a danger, you know, that if we are to judge Tone by the republicans-without- the-walls we might well mistake him for a sit-in angler who spent his time piddling around salmon pools.

Read the original at iti.ms/1GaDUS4

Selected by Joe Joyce; email fromthearchives@irishtimes.com

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