Grotesque grammar in note to PM

1972 photo of Marian Price and her sister Dolores (left). Photo: PA Wire
1972 photo of Marian Price and her sister Dolores (left). Photo: PA Wire

A particularly unwieldy sentence in a submission to the Prime Minister was thought so grammatically “grotesque” that it could jeopardise a sensitive request.

The November 1985 document recommended that there be changes to the licences of the Old Bailey bomber Dolours Price (then Dolours Rea after marrying the actor Stephen Rea) to allow her to live in London, partly because her then husband had acting jobs in the capital.

The submission proposed making a change to Mrs Rea’s licence so that she could “live quietly in London so long as there is no adverse information about her activities”.

The note which was drafted for the Secretary of State to sign contained one convoluted sentence which infuriated at least one of the individuals within government who read it.

In the margin beside the sentence is scrawled: “Grotesque punctuation.”

The offending sentence said: “Our legal advice is that there is no means of enforcing the licence condition by legal means short of recall to prison - it could not - for example be done by arresting Mrs Rea, bringing her back to Northern Ireland and then releasing her.”

Handwritten at the end of the three page submission is the comment: “Pity it couldn’t have been proof-read; irritating the PM over details is hardly the best way to set about persuading her to change her mind.”

l See tomorrow’s News Letter for more reports from the 1985 Government records