State papers 1985: Taoiseach turns down French lessons

FitzGerald agrees to address Paris conference on evolution of Irish foreign policy

An offer of assistance to then taoiseach Garret FitzGerald with his speechwriting and French was firmly rejected, according to a document from the taoiseach’s office.

In a draft letter dated October 31st, 1985, the private secretary to the taoiseach wrote to the private secretary to then minister for foreign affairs Peter Barry.

It said the taoiseach had accepted an invitation to address the Institut Français des Relations Internationales in Paris on November 29th on “the evolution of Irish foreign policy”.

“I am to request that your department supply a draft of the taoiseach’s address,” the note said. He went on to explain the taoiseach wished to speak in French, and time would be required for translation, so the draft was needed by November 19th. He suggested the principal drafter should have an initial consultation with the taoiseach.


A handwritten note attached to the draft letter sought the secretary’s signature. In another hand, an official wrote, “the taoiseach will be speaking in French. I asked him about the consultation – this will not be required as he dictated the speech over the weekend.”

Fiona Gartland

Fiona Gartland

Fiona Gartland is a crime writer and former Irish Times journalist