Banquet for Italian president cost £11,668.33

State papers 1986: Bono on guest list but bishops invited ‘in error’

Italian president Francisco Cossiga was given gifts worth almost £1,500.

Elaine Edwards

Guests at a State banquet for Italian president Francisco Cossiga dined on a clear nettle broth, fillet of beef Royal Tara, château potatoes, mangetout peas and strawberry syllabub and enjoyed a 1985 Santa Margharita Pinot Grigio and a 1982 Sassicaia.

Aer Lingus catered the event for 220 guests and 44 staff in June at a cost of £11,668.33 and wines from the Department of Foreign Affairs’ cellar cost £2,152. The bar bill ran to almost £900, with the most popular drinks being Baileys, vodka, vintage port and Paddy whiskey.

Invited guests included Seamus Heaney and “Mr and Mrs Paul Hewson”, but a note on the file indicated that “Bono no go”.


An internal note indicated that Áras an Uachtaráin had “in error” issued invitations to the two archbishops of Dublin, Mr and Mrs Brian Boydell and the editor of the Irish Independent and his wife.

Department of the Taoiseach officials indicated in May the draft invitation list, approved by the taoiseach, had not yet been finally cleared by the president.

The Áras staff felt, however, “in the light of experience”, that Dr Hillery was likely to ask that the two archbishops be included.

Dr FitzGerald’s officials suggested increasing the numbers of members of the Opposition on the guest lists for lunch and dinner, in light of the numbers that had attended previous state banquets.

Gifts to the Italian president and his wife included a silver bowl valued at £750 and silver framed photograph of the president and Mrs Hillery, at a value of £710.

Floral arrangements for the State dinner at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham cost £675.