McIvor wanted end to 11-plus system


The vexed issue of the 11-plus exam, which students aged 11 sit to select whether they can progress to a grammar school, was discussed by the Northern Ireland power-sharing executive in May 1974.

At a meeting at Stormont on May 17th, 1974, ministers paid tribute to the grammar school system. It was decided that the minister of education, Basil McIvor, should make a statement expressing agreement in principle with the need to revise the selection procedure for secondary education.

In a memo to his colleagues, the minister stressed the need for the executive to signal its view on secondary education, especially since the UK government had decided to adopt a system of comprehensive education in Britain.

Mr McIvor indicated concerns about the selection system and wished to see it ended. But, he added, "It has to be remembered that the voluntary grammar schools play an essential part of the present system. It is not realistic in the circumstances of Northern Ireland to imagine that they can simply be taken over as state schools, and it would be most undesirable to force them into becoming independent 'public schools'." His aim was to preserve the independence of management for these schools.

RTÉ criticised for 'alarmist' civil war talk

On a number of Dublin files there is criticism of the media, especially RTÉ, for an emphasis on the danger of a civil war breaking out in the North. But Maurice Hayes, then one of the joint secretaries to the convention at Stormont, on September 29th, 1974, is recorded by Dermot Nally in the taoiseach's office as believing that "the talk about civil war, doomsday, etc was all far too alarmist, and did not in his view represent anything like the true position. He himself was building a new house - as an expression of confidence in the future or, perhaps, as he put it, partly as a protection against inflation".

Journalists entertained on lavish scale

Government Information Service (GIS) staff wined and dined journalists on a lavish scale in the mid-1970s. Memos and expense claims show free drinks and meals for war correspondent Robert Fisk, John Simpson of the BBC and former Irish Times editor Conor Brady, then editor of the Garda Review.

One dinner hosted by posts and telegraphs minister Conor Cruise O'Brien in the Shelbourne Hotel in May 1975 shows an average of one bottle of wine per guest as well as spirits. Half of the £69.73 bill was spent on drinks.

A GIS official said the dinner guests included the chief political correspondent of Iranian television, who was "a political adviser to the prime minister and a member of the aristocracy with close connections with the Shah". The bill for the five people included five bottles of wine, spirits, minerals and tobacco. - (PA)