Taoiseach’s desire to involve wife in wine list for Mugabe

Robert Mugabe

Robert Mugabe

An Irish State banquet for Zimbabwean prime minister Robert Mugabe was less than stately after Garret FitzGerald took too long to hand-pick the wine and 30 unaccounted-for guests turned up.

Plans for the September 1983 visit and a lavish dinner in Dublin Castle had been going for weeks but the Taoiseach of the day annoyed his civil servants by leaving a few key decisions to the last minute.

Not only was the table plan for the Dublin Castle dinner incomplete but Mr FitzGerald spent too much time consulting with his wife Joan on the wine list.

Amid the fallout, State papers released under the 30 year rule show other blunders were spotted - foreign affairs had been sending letters for the SDLP’s John Hume, including an invite to lunch with then US vice-president George Bush, to the wrong John Hume.

The notes suggest that a delay in getting the final wine list signed off by the Taoiseach and delayed RSVPs from guests led to problems getting menus translated for the Mugabe party.

“In a departure from previous procedure, the Taoiseach decided that he and Mrs FitzGerald would choose the wines. This meant that wine lists had to be obtained quickly and further delayed the printing of the menus,” an official said.

The Taoiseach’s office refused to take the hit for the organisation, insisting that 90 per cent of the guest list had been with Foreign Affairs the day before the banquet.




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