Sunday, October 05, 2008

Denis's Do

Arrived in Belfast to discover half the newsroom had made the trip from London to say goodbye to the corporation's much loved Ireland Correspondent Denis Murray, who's retiring this year. Perhaps unsuprisingly it was the best BBC do I've ever attended. A lot of people are going to miss him, not least the audience for whom he made the country's difficult politics comprehensible.
The drink flowed and the stories with it. To say Denis is a peerless raconteur doesn't do justice to the man; he gave a blisteringly funny speech as he accepted his present from the cheering throng.
One of the biggest laughs was for a story he told about the Catholic peer, the late Lord Fitt, who like many key Northern Ireland politicians spent lots of time on aeroplanes to and from London and Brussels. Arriving at the airport late one evening for the last flight he found only one seat on the aircraft was available, the jumpseat in the cockpit. Halfway through the journey the SDLP peer emerges to go the loo - to encounter his political adversary the Rev Dr Ian Paisley, sat in Row 1.
"Don't worry Ian" says Fitt "I've left it on autopilot."
Don't be a stranger Denis.

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