OPINION: Bernie's exploits were the stuff of Leeside legends!

October 22nd, 2018 12:00 PM

By Southern Star Team


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RECENT television appearances by America’s top Democrat, Senator Dianne Feinstein, had punters in the Cork Arms smiling.  As she struggled with the controversy regarding Trump’s nomination of a crony to the US Supreme Court, they remembered with mixed emotions her famous visit to Cork and the million dollars of venture capital she promised for jobs in the real capital.

Between sips of porter, talk turned to the herculean efforts made some years ago by a humble sandwich-board man, Bernie Murphy from Roche’s Buildings, to get her to make good on the pledge. His exploits have since become the stuff of Leeside legend.

One of Cork’s great ‘characters’ (he died in 2007), he couldn’t read or write. Yet, he was an authority on world affairs, thanks to his transistor radio.  

Famous for being the man who carried the advertisement for Cork Cream Sherry, he was known to cadge a few bob on the South Mall when times were tough. His benefactors were business-solicitor types on their way to plush offices.  

If reluctant to cough up, he’d engage them politely on abstruse matters such as the international implications of the Sino-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact. This generally was done at the top of his voice, and it was a strategy that always loosened the purse strings.  

Indeed, the smart lads entered into a sort of contract with Bernie whereby they’d pay him a small monthly stipend that allowed them go about their business free of loud disturbance or unsought public attention.


Rock-hard gums

But it was his stunning election to Cork Corporation that drew Dianne Feinstein, the senior senator for California, into his sphere of influence. To the horror of Cork’s professional politicos and the city’s very respectable pundits, Bernie won a seat as an independent on the city council in June, 1985. He immediately promised to do what he could to get the Yankee dollars flowing into the city.

The following year he took part in San Francisco’s St Patrick’s Day Parade and magnificently put Cork on the map for the whole of America.  Along the way, he was presented with a set of false teeth worth ,200, having complained he couldn’t afford such a luxury in Cork.  

His sad tale, and the fact that his gums had become so rock-hard that he could ‘suck steak,’ fascinated San Francisco. At the St Patrick’s Day Parade, he emerged from a DeLorean car to huge cheers and shouts of ‘Murphy, show us your teeth.’

To his delight, he was presented with an Honorary Doctorate in Humanities from the New College of California, but it was the very large and empty suitcase that he brought to San Francisco’s city hall that captured the interest of the inhabitants. 

The purpose of the suitcase was to remind the Mayor, Dianne Feinstein, of the £1m venture capital that she promised Leesiders during a visit for the Cork 800 celebrations.

The city, at the time, was twinned with San Francisco and, as far as the Corpo was concerned, the offer from Mayor Feinstein was genuine. Sadly, time passed and Corkonians anxiously waited for the green-bucks to come floating through the windows of City Hall. They never did.  

Finally, Cllr Bernie declared that he personally would go a-knocking on her door in search of the promised spondulicks.


Remained empty

So, off he went, dragging a large suitcase behind him, confident in the knowledge that Cork would have no problems finding viable projects to interest San Francisco venture capitalists (a cable car up and down St Patrick’s Hill was one such project!).

Knocking on Feinstein’s office door, a flunky rushed out to inform him that the mayor was unable to see Cork’s premier representative because of a top-level meeting with officials from the Soviet Union. Instead, she sent her second in command.  

The meeting lasted all of two minutes after which a disappointed Bernie was obliged to depart the premises, still hauling his large suitcase that continued to remain very much empty – even to this day.

 It was a slight to Bernie and to Cork that has never been forgotten, particularly among those remarkable Cork Arms patrons who, in one way or another, actively supported the councillor in his political career and in his many public-spirited activities.  


Big Brother watching

And now for something different: Cork County Council has completed closed-circuit television (CCTV) schemes in Skibbereen, Clonakilty, Macroom, Dunmanway, Bantry and Midleton. 

But a snag has arisen that might put community-based CCTV systems on the long finger, despite the welcome for them by Cork based FG senator, Tim Lombard.

Mr Lombard has encouraged community groups to submit applications for government grants for such schemes, saying that Fine Gael was committed to strengthening the law and tackling crime trends such as anti-social behaviour and disorder in local areas. 

But, since the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) across the EU, greater control has been given to individuals over their personal data regarding how it is collected, processed, used and safeguarded – especially in cases where no crime is suspected.

And there’s the rub!  Serious questions have arisen over who will be in charge of the surveillance data. The Community Associations, the Gardaí, the Department of Justice, the local authority? 

Interestingly, the very first CCTV system was installed by Siemens at the Nazi V-2 rocket base in Peenemunde and a debate has been taking place ever since over the negative influence of CCTV surveillance on civil liberties and privacy concerns. 



 According to a Waterford publication that purports to be satirical, an explanation has been found for the ferociously hostile reaction of Northern Loyalists to the proposed Irish Language Act. It seems that hearing or speaking Irish could confuse the understanding of manly Loyalists of what it is to be male or female, and they could end up like Republicans – weak, girlie and wimpy. 

 Worse still, road signs in Irish would lead directly to Hell. Indeed, the only thing saving Loyalist Northerners from diabolically directing their sexual interests to people of the same sex is the abolition of the Good Friday Agreement.

As for Varadkar’s demand for ‘a Brexit backstop,’ well, right-thinking Loyalists were appalled at such disgusting language, as they were by the recent controversy over people seeking ‘gay’ birthday cakes.  

All very funny, indeed!  But, from a Southern point of view, we prefer the story of the chap falling out of a pub on Cork’s North Main Street and seeing two fellows strolling by, wearing matching clothing. He stopped them and asked if they were gay.  

They immediately arrested him!

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