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30 years ago: Guinness contemplated cutting the Irish connection

The recent Falkands War and the IRA bombing campaign had led to a “resistance to the Irish angle”.

Image: Gareth Chaney/Photocall Ireland

COMMERCIAL FEARS OVER the IRA’s bombing campaign and the government’s failure to side with Britain during the Falklands War have been revealed.

Released under the 30-year rule, documents describe a meeting at the Irish Embassy in London following the IRA bombing of Hyde Park and Regents Park in London.

In attendance were Edward Guinness, who was in charge of public relations at The Guinness Factory which was located at Park Royal in London (it closed in 2005), and a “Mr. Kerrigan”, who was described as looking after “relations with the Irish community in Britain”.

On meeting with a government representative at the embassy, Guinness hoped that the Irish Ambassador – who was on leave – would soon get to meet newly appointed Managing Director of Guinness, Ernest Saunders.

Business impact

During the meeting, the impact that the Falklands War (which had ended at this point) and the IRA bombings were having on the company were discussed.

He [Edward Guinness] mentioned that during the Falklands crisis an innkeeper in Poole in Dorset had severed his connection with Guinness and had managed to attract some publicity for his action. He had, however, kept the Guinness tap and when the crisis was over he had resumed the sale of Guinness.

Following the IRA bombings in London, a similar move by an innkeeper in Suffolk had gotten a “good deal more publicity.”

Of greater concern were the actions of a brewer in Sutherland “who bottled Guinness and distributed it through his own houses.”

Because of political developments this man had objected to Guinness being supplied to him from the brewery in Dublin and demanded to be supplied from Park Royal.

Worried that the dispute would become public knowledge, Guinness felt that they would have no choice but “be forced to switch their source of supply.”

The knock-on effect of this, he feared, would be that “once an exception had been made”, more and more customers in Northern England would want their supply to come from London as opposed to Dublin.

Unsure as to whether the association between the brand and Ireland “was helpful,” Edward Guinness said that they may have to “emphasise facts such as that Guinness was an English company”, having had similar “publicity material” ready to go during the Falklands crisis.

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A fund of goodwill

Believing that the “fund of goodwill” towards Ireland that had been build up in the ’50s and ’60s was “now being depleted”, Guinness didn’t believe that things would necessarily improve with the passage of time.

Guinness believed that the recent, “gloating”, press release that the IRA had issued in the wake of the bombings had received far more coverage in the UK than the Irish Government’s condemnation of it.

The Falklands crisis and the IRA bombings were associated in people’s minds and it was desirable to keep reminding people that the Irish people were totally opposed to violence and those who used it.

All the documents referenced in this piece are from folder 2012/90/982, which is located in the National Archives.

The full set of notes from the meeting are available below:

READ: 1982 State Papers: 30 years on: The overview>

Read all of TheJournal.ie’s stories on the 1982 State papers, just released>

About the author:

Paul Hyland

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