State papers of 1984 reveal capacity for ‘doublethink’ was all too evident

Chilling government memo underlines how close Republic was to a bailout

‘It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

As the fateful year loomed the easy temptation for columnists short of material had been to find in every quirk of life and politics signs that George Orwell's dystopian vision of Nineteen Eight-Four would be vindicated. In Ireland the clocks did not strike thirteen, but "Doublethink", "the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them," was alive and flourishing, as the State papers we publish today reflect.

In the shocking January death of 15-year-old Ann Lovett giving birth alone in Granard we can recall all the pain that emanated from a society that preferred to suppress uncomfortable truths to talking about them, and the ignominious blaming and shaming of victims for their own plights. Lovett was dismissed by the local bishop as "immature".

Doublespeak is also intrinsic to diplomacy – "constructive ambiguity" – and, of course, as the unpublished records entertainingly reveal of the discussions between Garret FitzGerald's government and Margaret Thatcher's. There were words that could not be spoken in Thatcher's presence. Irish official Michael Lillis would describe how the Irish were seeking "the essence of joint authority although we do not insist on the term". Thatcher would bridle at its mention while her officials had to conceal from her their own use of the word "involvement" about the South's potential role in the North.


But few will be surprised to hear that Thatcher despised Charles Haughey. "We like you," she is supposed to have told FitzGerald. "We want to deal with you and not that other man." Haughey.

And then there was a taste of times to come ... the memo to government warning of the possibility a bailout would be needed and the harsh terms the EEC or IMF would impose. And it added that “the international banks keep our position under constant review; they visit the department of finance regularly and question officials closely on the developing budgetary situation.”