A SOURCE close to the Institute for Religious Works — the IOR, the Vatican Bank, — tells us that there is no truth in the rumour that Cardinal Grotti was seen offering Irish passports to Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, the head of IOR, and to Luigi Mennini, managing director, and to Peligrino De Strobel, the chief accountant, who have warrants issued against them by a special court in Milan, and whose daily jogging is therefore strictly confined to the Vatican State.
A clerical source, close to an Irish hostel in Kilburn, has said that it alerted the Irish Embassy in London last November to the fact that teenage Irish residents were going through marriages of convenience at two registry offices in Central London with high class Moroccan call girls for £500 a time, for the sake of Irish passports.
The irony is that while visiting Irish ministers and politicians and foreign office mandarins were upstairs in the sumptuous salon, and the elegant ballroom, hammering out the Anglo-Irish Agreement, it is alleged that downstairs in the more mundane basement office of the passport section, things were not what they seemed.
This upstairs-downstairs syndrome goes back to the days when the Irish Embassy in Belgravia was the London house of the Guinness family. The late Lord Plunkett, a former aide to the Queen, was born there.
The headquarters of the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, a beautiful Georgian mansion in St Stephen Green, was the Dublin house of the brewers of the black stuff. Their country house was Ashford Castle in Cong, in County Mayo, now a luxury hotel owned by Dr Tony O'Reilly, the former Irish Rugby International, who has just donated £1.5 million to Trinity College Dublin for a business school.
It is a happy coincidence that the Irish passport and a bottle of Guinness each carry a form of an Irish harp. When the Protestant Archbishop of Cashel, Dr Price, died in 1752, he left £100 to his agent, Arthur Guinness, of Celbridge in County Kildare, who promptly invested it in a brewery. Years later the Guinness family restored St Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin, while Henry Roe, the distiller, restored Christ Church Cathedral, giving rise to the clerical comment that "beer and whiskey are great restoratives!" Guinness, for many years, have had their financial power centre in London, and not in Dublin, and its profits came largely from vast breweries in Africa and other Third World nations where the natives are convinced of its magic properties.
During the Civil War in Nigeria, the Irish Ambassador and his staff, whenever they encounted military road-blocks found they were always happily waved through by the soldiery, as at the sight of the Harp on their diplomatic passports they would cry, with approval "Ho! Ho! Guinness."
God be with the days when Guinness barges steamed majestically up the Liffey from St James' Gate Brewery, with barrels of porter, to the waiting cross-channel ships at the Customs House, and as they passed under O'Connell Bridge the cry would go up from assembled Dubliners to the captain, "Bring us back a parrot!"
The Irish passport used to be a thing of beauty, with its distinctive green cover and gold harp. Now, alas, it is a dull bog brown, in a plastic cover, in conformity with EEC regulations. It has across the top of the cover, "An Comhphobal Eorpach, — European Community" which destroys all sense of nationality and individuality.
However, for pure genius, who can beat the CIA who fixed up the American arms delegations to Iran with false Irish passports? This was after a break-in at the Dublin printing works which produces blanks for Irish passports.
Perhaps one day, in the near future, we shall see 10,000 Nicaraguan "contras" arriving in Shannon with Irish passports, when they are obliged to evacuate Honduras. They may arrive as tourists, on CIA charter planes, which are said to be operating out of Shannon in the interests of Uncle Sam's covert operations in Central America.
In the light of all the recent allegations about the Boys in the Black Stuff, and the Girls from the Casbah, a source close to traditional Irish harpists in Ireland quotes a warning from the Bard himself, Liam Shakespeare, "The strings are false, my lord."
They also point out that it may be necessary to update Moore's lovely Irish traditional melody: "the harp that once through Tara's halls" to "The harp that twice through Tara's halls".