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Politics

An Taoiseach Charles Haughey: An Evaluation.

Living in Ireland in July 1987 I was traipsing across a hot Dublin on my way back to Belfast cursing the fact I’d been out on the lash in Limerick the previous evening knowing full well I had an early start and would be hungover as an inevitability rather than as an active choice. It was always the compulsory vodka and coke for the road, rather than the numerous pints that preceded it that got the blame. 

I always walked between Heusten and Connolly Stations because I was too tight to get a cab and you always ended up in crush on the bus, someone once put a fag burn in my nice new shirt, so it was always the shanks from then on. 

Fagless, and in need of a sugar hit  I purchased 20 coffin nails and a can of Coke and the guy asked me a seriously good question; “Why do ye keep voting in Maggie?” 

We had a good discussion and I put across the reasons why she was loved and hated in equal measure and we had a good laugh at the southern English media bias, and he admitted that he found the way the Tory Press treated Kinnock disgusting. 

The tone, however changed somewhat when I reversed the question and asked about “that crook” Charles J. Haughey. The fella went off his head and told me to mind my own and what right did the feckin’ English have to hold un wanted opinions on Irish politics anyway? 

I felt it would be pedantic to point out I was Irish and living on the island of Ireland, as your man was on a roll and a crowd scene was developing. Surprisingly Cromwell and the Black and Tans were mentioned, which is most unlike a certain breed of Irishmen, who hold all Brits responsible for all the ills of the Isle. It never ceases to amaze me, this one but there you go. Ill informed Knobheads exist everywhere. 

Haughey was a slippery customer to say the least, and even when he swore black was white, people would still vote him in, and in Ireland you need 50% of the vote to form a one Party Government, and he managed it three times, meaning he was way more popular than Thatcher, who never managed more than 41%, even in her electoral pomp. 

Living in Northern Ireland , I was naturally interested in the processes in the Republic but just can’t get my head around why this guy was Mr. Popularity. Here are some of the things that he did… 

1)    He diverted Government cash to buy arms for the IRA when Finance Minister but got away with it. He did it. No doubt. Jack Lynch said in the Dail; “ Haughey and another minister (Neil Blaney) were gun-running, and of used £100,000 of public money to buy the arms”. 

2)    He described the Anglo Irish Agreement as a “Total sell out” but did nothing about it when elected. 

3)    He said the Single European Act was “giving up everything we fought for at Independence” but endorsed it when he became Taoiseach for the third time in 1987. 

4)    In that campaign he said he would reverse Medical Card bed closures but increased the pace of shut down when elected. 

5)    Haughey operated the politics of cronyism in an atmosphere of corruption and bullying; yet his acceptance of enormous bribes was never investigated by the tax authorities, since he was as much feared by the civil service as by his political enemies. 

6)    Colonel Gadaffi, who had been approached as a potential buyer of Irish beef, later publicly described Haughey as “a close friend”, and urged support for “the IRA struggle for liberation” in Northern Ireland. 

7)    Haughey’s wealth, which included a Palladian mansion and 300-acre estate near Dublin, a string of race horses, an island retreat off the south coast, and a 50-ft motor yacht, gave rise to much speculation; but it was not explained until after he retired, when records of his Cayman Islands fortune were uncovered by a tribunal investigating secret payments to another politician. He tried to blame it on his accountant. Like he never noticed…. 

8)    Haughey avoided paying any income tax on his ill gotten grubby gains, having himself introduced measures in the 1968 Finance Act which exempted him. 

9)    Haughey restricted sales of condoms to married couples, and only on prescription, which both helped religious consciences and delighted the Irish medical profession with a new and lucrative franchise.

10)                       One of Haughey’s first acts as Fianna Fail leader was to acquire the records of party donations from businessmen – the “black book” which, traditionally, the leader had not been shown. When the party treasurer made his next annual approach to these benefactors, he was surprised to be told that they had already been charged and had given Haughey’s bagman the cash. FF never saw the money. 

This one is the best… He had an overdraft “problem” with the AIB so Haughey diverted a £20,000 charity fund, raised in 1988 to pay for a liver transplant operation for his deputy prime minister Brian Lenihan, to his own account…

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About dermotrathbone

Writer and co author "Through Red Lenses". Activist Unite the Union, Save Our NHS Hull. Fan of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, Hull FC, Munster and Ireland Rugby. Views are mine alone and may not reflect the organisations concerned.

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