The Greek philosopher Plato once said that even the Gods loved jokes but for a while last week he was almost proved wrong.Our Munster Express April Fool story about British Prime Minister, Theresa May, buying a holiday home in Dunmore East took off like a rocket in the print and broadcast media and went viral around Europe on social media. In other words, it was fecking bananas.
We have been running such pranks in the week of April 1st for many years but this one was probably the biggest and, unintentionally, caused the most mischief. In fairness, there was a BIG reference to Monday (April 1st) in the story and while many copped it immediately many others did not. A quote from Estate Agent Des Purcell of Purcell Properties who entered into the fun added grist to the mill. Then Conor Purcell told several of his friends who called their office that he had been warned by MI5 to stay schtum so that added to the gaiety here at home!
Mind you, it was a slow burner. Our paper hit the streets on Tuesday but it wasn’t until Thursday morning that the fuse exploded. It began with most of our own national print and broadcast media and was quickly picked up by all the British newspapers, radio and television stations. Baffled officials in Downing Street and in Mrs May’s constituency office were bombarded by media enquiries and had to check with Herself before issuing a denial. The Labour opposition was quickly in on the act as well asking what the Prime Minister was doing buying a house in a EU country while trying to take Britain out of the group.
Then it got really messy. The Munster Express story was picked up by the French 24-hour news channel, France 24, plus the highly influential Politico Playbook on-line news feed that is practically the bible of the EU Commission and Parliament.
We were reliably informed by well-placed sources in Brussels that the story was read by the EU’s Chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, and the Commission President, Jean Claude Juncker. Their comments were not recorded which is probably just as well!The truth finally dawned when the Sean O’Rourke Show on RTE Radio 1 invited yours truly on air and I explained that it was all a prank and there wasn’t a word of truth to the story.
For a while there was a stony silence about the matter here, in Britain and in Europe and then, at lunchtime, one of the main items on Breaking News was that the Irish newspaper, The Munster Express, and its ‘*%£**$*’ writer had confirmed that the ‘Big Story’ was a hoax.
The fall-out is continuing. There were some complaints to our office but most people saw the funny side of it. To be honest, I never thought it would make as big a splash as it did and I regret if it caused a moment or two’s bother to the Prime Minister at a critical time in Brexit negotiations.
However, now that she knows about Dunmore East, when all hustle and bustle of politics is over for her, she and her husband, Philip, might well decide to check it out for themselves. The reaction to the story in Dunmore East was very positive so the Mays will know they would be very welcome.
PS: Many years ago, we annoyed Buckingham Palace with an April Fool story about the then single Prince Andrew marrying the daughter of a Ballybricken woman. Now we’ve added Downing Street, where to next?