Oscar nominated ‘Argo’ deliberately misrepresents Irish passport role in hostage crisis - Irish connection to daring rescue of diplomats is changed to British.

The movie “Argo” about a sensational CIA operation to free American diplomats hiding in the Canadian Ambassador’s residence during the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979 has sparked outrage in Canada. It is a strong contender for Best Picture at this year’s Oscars.

Ken Taylor, the Canadian Ambassador at the time, has attacked the movie as glorifying the CIA and American role and downplaying the bravery of the Canadians who took the Americans in and protected them.

But the film, which tells the story of CIA agent Tony Mendez and his successful effort to free the American diplomats who fled the embassy before the students took it over in November 1979 also ignores an Irish angle to the story.

Conor O’Clery, the former Irish Times journalist who covered Iran at the time, notes that Mendez entered Teheran on an Irish passport, not a British one as the movie shows. As he pointed out in a recent Irish Times article about that era

“The American spooks knew that the Irish were regarded as neutrals by revolutionary Iran (Oliver North would use a forged Irish passport a few years later to enter Tehran during the Iran-Contra scandal).”

Why the movie makers tried to gloss over that pertinent fact remains a mystery. It was central to the CIA cover story that the Mendez fake passport was Irish. A British one would never have succeeded.

O’Clery notes that he too, got special access because he carried the Irish passport.

Writing about his Irish identity he says “This benefited me when I went to Iran in January 1980 to report for The Irish Times on the hostage crisis.

“Shortly after I arrived, all American journalists were abruptly expelled, but I was allowed to stay on, and became practically the only guest in the Intercontinental Hotel....

“One of the students, named Rahim, with drooping moustache and deep brown eyes, asked as I took my leave why Europeans were not supporting the overthrow of the Shah’s cruel regime.

He added: “If the people of England knew of the crimes committed in their name in Northern Ireland, they would not allow the government to remain in power.

O’Clery offers an insight into what was the real espionage and spy craft going on in the embassy at the time.

“Rahim presented me with a “revolutionary pack” of copies of secret papers which the CIA had failed to destroy before the siege and which showed the extent of the spy agency’s use of fake passports.

“One document specified Belgian cover for an agent with the alias Paul Timmermans. It stated, “According to personal data in your passport, you are single, were born in Antwerp, Belgium 08 July ‘34, have blue eyes, have no distinguishing characteristics and are approximately 1.88 metres tall. Your occupation is that of a commercial business representative. Your Belgian passport was ostensibly issued in Jette [and] to enhance its validity the following back travel has been added, a trip to Madrid, Spain, in April 1977, a trip to Lisbon, Portugal...”

Strange isn’t it why Hollywood insists on alternate versions of the truth even when the actual truth is indisputable. Little wonder people believe Hollywood wants to make it all up even when the truth is even more compelling.