When history becomes propaganda: how the name of Giorgio Borg Olivier and his brother Eddie are maligned by BusinessNow.mt

A local business online journal published an article that carried a story regarding Malta’s Prime Minister, Giorgio Borg Olivier. Erroneously, the person who wrote this article wrote Borg Olivier’s name as George – which is a complete misnomer. Malta’s prime minister prided himself to be called Giorgio as he was christened or Ġorġ in Maltese but did not like to be called George. In this article, Giorgio’s brother, Fr. Eddie Borg Olivier is also mentioned.

According to the article in question, in his home, Fr. Eddie Borg Olivier had a chandelier that originated from Castile. Here, I do not contest the fact that Fr. Borg Olivier had a chandelier in his home or that it could have been historically important. BusinessNow.mt states that this chandelier was bought after Fr Eddie’s death when his estate was auctioned. However, what I am here contesting is the journalist’s assertion that this particular chandelier originated from the Auberge de Castile in Valletta.

Any person, not having a clue about local history, on reading BusinessNow.mt’s article, would conclude that the chandelier was stolen from Castile. There can be no other explanation for a chandelier, hanging in the Auberge at Castile, ending up in the home of the Prime Minister’s brother; can there?

However, anybody knowing some history will immediately realize that there is something incongruous in this magazine’s narrative. To be fair, the fact that nowadays the Auberge de Castile is being used as the office of the Prime Minister does not help. Nonetheless, the article implies that this chandelier story happened when Giorgio Borg Olivier was Prime Minister of Malta and used the Auberge de Castile as his office, which is all nonsense.

When Giorgio Borg Olivier was Prime Minister, his office was never at the Auberge de Castile. His office was the Auberge D’Aragon at the other end of town. It was only in 1971 that the Auberge de Castile became the official office chosen by the then Prime Minister Dom Mintoff. Giorgio Borg Olivier had just lost the elections and Labour had come to power.

While one could still argue that despite Castile not being used by Giorgio Borg Olivier, as Prime Minister he had the faculty to have a say on any State property and therefore also on Castile. He could have given orders for this chandelier – possibly even on temporary loan – to his brother. But this too does not hold water, Hence, my reason for using this narrative as an example of how easily history can be turned into political propaganda.  

Those knowing Fr Eddie Borg Olivier would never believe such nonsense.  Fr Eddie was a very serious and honest individual. I remember him, in the 1970s, presenting a Children’s Programmes on Rediffusion. Furthermore, I cannot imagine the Labour Government would have allowed a priest, irrespective of whether he was the brother of a former prime minister or not, to keep state artifacts in his home. And certainly, had that been the case, Fr. Eddie would never have been allowed to continue broadcasting his talks for children who, pupils attending government schools, listened to.  

Therefore, the possibilities are that someone is either lying or propagating fake stories or not verifying facts before putting pen to paper. This is disgraceful. Names have been bandied about in this article that certainly does not deserve being dealt with in such an unprofessional approach. 

I had thought that the chandelier in question was the one presented by the Italian Government to the Maltese nation in 1964 as a gift to commemorate Malta’s Independence. But this chandelier still exists and is to be found at the Foreign Office in Valletta.

The journalist specifies that the chandelier was bought at a public auction of Fr Eddie Borg Olivier’s estate. It also seems that the source of this narrative was Dr. Mark Micallef, one-time Malta’s ambassador to Portugal who has since passed away and therefore cannot confirm or substantiate this version. Unfortunately, what I can add is that Micallef is not a font to be relied upon and trusted. Either Dr. Mark Micallef was muddling matters or else he intended to slander the Borg Olivier family.  

There is another important factor that proves that this chandelier could have never been at the Auberge de Castile. Since 1805, the Auberge de Castile was the Headquarters of the British Armed Forces of Malta until the Armed forces left Malta permanently. In the 1960s, Castile was still being used as the Administrative Headquarters of British Naval and Military Administration!

One last point. The Borg Olivier family was of noble descent and therefore the chandelier auctioned could well have been a family heirloom hanging in the family home where Fr Eddie Borg Olivier carried on residing after his parents’ death. This explains why, upon his death, the heirs auctioned the estate which seems to have included a chandelier whose provenance, as clarified above, could never have been in Castile contrary to what is alleged in BusinessNow.mt.  

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