Maeve Binchy sought meeting with President


Author Maeve Binchy wrote to president Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh in 1975 wondering if he could "receive" her, files in the National Archives show.

She was working for The Irish Times in London at that time. "I know you are extremely busy," she wrote to Ó Dálaigh, "but I often see in the paper that you 'received' so-and-so and was wondering very simply could I be received too."

She continued: "Perhaps this is an appalling breach of everything and if so I feel sure you will ask someone to send me a polite letter telling me so. But I will be in Dublin again on Friday, 18th July, with my boyfriend, who is an English broadcaster Gordon Snell, and I thought in a moment of wildness that if you were receiving people that day we might come and say hallo."

She subsequently married Snell, the author of many children's books.

"Needless to say Gordon, as a reserved and non-pushing Brit, is amazed that I should ask you this, but I thought that since I have met you so often that you mightn't mind," she wrote.

Ó Dálaigh agreed to meet the couple as planned.

Looking back on the request now, Binchy told The Irish Times that she would never dream of asking such a thing now but she was young at that time "and felt the world owed me a living".

She recalled that when Ó Dálaigh's aide rang her office in London, he told the secretary that "the president" had agreed to receive her.

"The president of what?" the secretary asked. "Of Ireland," came the withering reply.

"It was a lovely day," she recalled. "We had tea and chatted and he took us on a tour around the place. He was very charming."

When it was time to go, the couple were brought to Bowes pub by the Special Branch. "It was quite extraordinary really," she said.

She said Snell was very impressed with her contacts, but he had failed to organise the equivalent event in England - afternoon tea with the queen.

Binchy was in New York when Ó Dálaigh died in 1978.

She said she attended a special Mass in St Patrick's cathedral and fondly remembered the day when she had tea with the president.