Declassified files: Hungover Hurd had a walk to clear his head

Douglas Hurd
Douglas Hurd

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.

Irish 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 ‘jelled’ at his initial meeting with our Minister in Dublin on 25 October (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 Mr FitzGerald’s office, released by the National Archives in Dublin, 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 he 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 said to be “beginning to enjoy his job” after five months.

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’?”