Lionel Walsh - Standing up for staff
Friday 11 October 2019
Others here have paid ample tribute to Lionel Walsh, noting his kindness, professionalism and cheerfulness.
Lionel was my bureau chief in Paris in the late 1970s and asked me to become the news editor, his de facto number two, in 1978 to replace Tony Winning who was heading for Madrid as chief correspondent.
It was a big bureau with a varied news file, not just involving French events but, most important of all, the activities of one Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini who had taken up residence just outside Paris before returning to Iran to lead the Islamic Revolution.
London asked us to detach a reporter to watch over Khomeini full-time and, after some discussion between the two of us, we decided to assign our new trainee, Paul Taylor, who had covered part of the Khomeini story with a good deal of flair.
As the story grew, so did pressure from London for us to replace Paul with a fully-fledged staffer. This pressure was coming in the form of comments from horsemen and other senior editors asking if it was wise to use a trainee in this way. Lionel argued back that Paul, who had built up an impressive network of contacts, was doing an excellent job and that replacing him would be mean and send the wrong message not just to him but to other members of the bureau. Eventually, Paul stayed on the story right until Khomeini flew to Tehran in February 1979. ■