Belfast Telegraph

'Hungover Douglas Hurd had to be walked round Dublin park' after meeting with Irish government

State papers

By Ed Carty

Douglas Hurd had to be walked around a Dublin park to shift a hangover the morning after his first ministerial meeting with his Irish counterparts.

State papers from 1985 revealed the newly appointed and self-conscious Secretary of State for Northern Ireland was left wondering what sort of impression he had left after the summit.

Mr Hurd's political adviser Edward Bickham confided in Noel Dorr, the Irish ambassador to the UK, when they met at a dinner in London a few months later.

"He confirmed that Hurd thought that he had not really 'gelled' at his initial meeting with our Minister in Dublin on October 25 (1984)," Mr Dorr wrote in a letter to then-Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald.

"(Bickham mentioned incidentally that Hurd had had quite a hangover after that visit and had to be taken out and walked around the park the next day!)."

In the papers from Garret FitzGerald's office, released by the National Archives, it is not clear where Mr Hurd had to be aired out.

But the young adviser who passed on the gossip, Mr Bickham, was described as close to the Secretary of State and well-informed on Northern Ireland issues.

He was said to be concerned to confirm that the ministerial summit on February 4, 1985 had gone well "at a personal level" while he also revealed that Mr Hurd was worried about how he was viewed in Ireland.

The ambassador put Mr Bickham's mind at ease.

"In response to his general interest in how Hurd appeared in the South said - suitably tactfully - that it was something of an advantage to Hurd to have started rather badly since he 'had nowhere to go but up'," Mr Dorr wrote.

Mr Hurd was also said to be "beginning to enjoy his job" after five months in office and was "fascinated by his responsibilities".

Mr Dorr added: "Bickham said to me that the fundamental question (for Hurd) is whether anything can be done to improve the situation - or should it simply be kept 'ticking over'?"

Mr Hurd, who was moved to Foreign Minister in the build-up to the signing of the Anglo Irish Agreement, was considered to hold significant influence in the Conservative Party at the time and "could get through the party more or less what he wants, within reason", the ambassador noted.

Mr Dorr added: "Accordingly he is considering action, in conjunction with Dublin rather than just 'marking time'."

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