Guinness wary of Falklands backlash


EMBASSY NOTE:The Irish Embassy in London was warned by a member of the Guinness family that the firm might have to play down its links with Ireland because of adverse British reaction to Irish government policy on the Falklands and recent IRA bombings.

The stance of the government led by Charles Haughey on the Falklands War was a cause of major concern to sectors of the business community involved with the British market, newly released State Papers show.

A file from the Department of the Taoiseach in 1982, now available at the National Archives under the 30-year rule, provides more details about this concern.

Second-in-command at the London embassy Paul D Dempsey sent a detailed note to Iveagh House on a visit he had from Edward Guinness, public relations chief at the Park Royal brewery in London, and John Kerrigan, responsible for the company’s relations with the Irish community in Britain.

“Mr Guinness,” he writes in August 1982, had given him “some details of the effects on Guinness of the Falklands crisis and the recent IRA bombings in Britain.

“During the Falklands crisis an innkeeper in Poole in Dorset had severed his connection with Guinness and had managed to attract publicity for his action. He had, however, kept the Guinness tap and when the crisis was over he had resumed the sale of Guinness.”

A more serious situation developed with a substantial brewer in the north of England, a region supplied from Dublin, who bottled the Guinness himself and distributed it through his own public houses. “Because of political developments this man had objected to Guinness being supplied to him from the brewery in Dublin and demanded to be supplied from Park Royal.”

The embassy’s note said: “Mr Guinness remarked that an association with Ireland was part of the Guinness image. When he or Mr Kerrigan went to large functions, for example, the band would invariably strike up When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.

“He was no longer sure that this association with Ireland was helpful. They were encountering a lot of resistance to the Irish angle and this could force them to emphasise facts such as that Guinness was an English company which had its base at Park Royal.

“Indeed, they had publicity material of this kind ready during the Falklands crisis but had not used it. They might also have to cease their association with Irish organisations and functions.”

Guinness did not accept that attitudes would improve with time: there had been a “cumulative” reaction to the killing of Lord Mountbatten, the Falklands crisis and the July 20th IRA bombings at Hyde Park and Regent’s Park where 11 soldiers lost their lives including members of the queen’s household cavalry and their horses.

Dempsey concluded: “I expressed the hope that the situation would now improve and said that we would do our utmost, in so far as it depended on us, to that end.”

In a June 7th letter, when the Falklands War was at its height, the Irish Exporters Association told taoiseach Charles Haughey the trade “backlash” in the UK because of Ireland’s policy of opposing EEC sanctions was “the most severe since at least 1969”.