Haughey, Charles James (C. J.) (1925–2006), politician and taoiseach, was born in Castlebar, Co. Mayo, on 16 September 1925, third of seven children (four sons and three daughters) of Sean Haughey (1899–1947), commandant in the Free State army, and his wife Sarah (née McWilliams). Both parents were active during the war of independence in their native Dungiven/Swatragh area of Co. Londonderry, where Sean was OC South Derry Battalion IRA. Two maternal uncles were IRA members in inter-war Northern Ireland; one was interned during the second world war. Summer visits to Northern relatives (in 1935 he witnessed sectarian riots in Maghera) shaped Haughey's lifelong anti-partitionism.
Early life and education
In March 1928 Sean Haughey retired from the army and acquired a 100-acre farm at Dunshaughlin, Co. Meath. The farm could not be retained when Sean Haughey developed multiple sclerosis, and in 1933 the family moved to Donnycarney, Co. Dublin, and lived in reduced circumstances. Haughey was educated at Scoil Mhuire national school in Marino (he briefly attended primary schools in Dunshaughlin and at Corlecky near Swatragh) and St Joseph's Christian Brothers' School, Fairview, where he was usually first in every subject and represented the Leinster colleges in hurling and Gaelic football. Having come first in the Dublin Corporation scholarship examination, Haughey attended UCD, where he studied commerce, won a bursary, and graduated B.Comm. in 1946.
Haughey's later conspicuous consumption was partly a reaction against his straitened upbringing and the austerities imposed by the second-world-war emergency. He later recalled that in the war years his generation faced a choice between joining the Irish or the British army, with many school friends taking the latter option. In 1940 Haughey joined the Local Defence Force (army reserve, later FCA); he rose to lieutenant, and considered an army career (he retained his FCA commission until 1957).
On VE Day (8 May 1945) Haughey joined UCD students and other protestors in College Green after Trinity College students provocatively displayed flags of the allied nations and burned an Irish flag; Haughey and Seamus Sorahan (later a prominent senior counsel) burned a union jack. This reflected sensitivities over Irish wartime neutrality and rag-style rivalries between students of UCD and TCD (then situated close together in the city centre).
On graduation Haughey was articled to Michael J. Bourke of Boland, Bourke and Company, and in 1948 won the John Mackie memorial prize of the Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICA). Haughey played Gaelic football for Parnell's GAA club, winning a county championship medal. His notorious temper made an early appearance when he was suspended for a year after striking a linesman. In 1949, after studying at King's Inns, he was called to the bar but never practised. He became an associate member of the ICA in 1949 and a fellow in 1955.
Haughey was attracted to Fianna Fáil at university. Fianna Fáil students primarily came from lower-middle-class backgrounds and pursued vocational studies; Fine Gael students (such as Garret FitzGerald (qv), whose intense rivalry with Haughey began at UCD) were seen as upper middle class, more likely to study humanities, and projecting privilege and entitlement. Haughey was also influenced by two friends and former classmates at St Joseph's, Harry Boland (son of Gerald Boland (qv)), with whom Haughey established the accountancy firm Haughey Boland in 1951 (recruiting Des Traynor (qv) as an articled clerk), and George Colley (qv). Haughey did not formally join the party until 1948, after the death of his father (who admired Michael Collins (qv) and despised Eamon de Valera (qv)), when he entered the influential Tomás Ó Cleirigh cumann in Dublin North East, whose members included George Colley, Harry Colley (qv) and Oscar Traynor (qv). In later years some Fianna Fáil critics suggested his family background indicated 'that wee blueshirt' was an opportunist alien to the party's traditions.
On 18 September 1951 Haughey married Maureen Lemass (daughter of Seán Lemass (qv)) whom he had met at UCD; they had three sons and a daughter. By 1954 he was secretary of the Ó Cleirigh cumann and the Dublin Comhairle Dáilcheantair, and after Fianna Fáil lost the 1954 general election was among the promising young men assigned by Lemass to revamp the party's structures. Like his colleagues (including Brian Lenihan (qv), Eoin Ryan (qv) and Kevin Boland (qv)) Haughey travelled the country, investigating and reorganising constituency organisations, and submitted regular written reports to Lemass. Haughey combined business and political activity, using party contacts to cultivate members of the business community and thereby acquire clients for Haughey Boland; this reflected Fianna Fáil's links to Irish business (fostered by the party's protectionist policies) and began Haughey's lifelong and often murky association with the business world.
In January 1955 Haughey was appointed to a party sub-committee on partition, and on 15 January submitted a memorandum (co-authored by George Colley) suggesting the Irish government should sponsor guerrilla warfare in Northern Ireland on the model of the covertly sponsored Egyptian campaign in the Suez Canal Zone. The memorandum argued anti-partition sentiment was increasing and Fianna Fáil should not relinquish it to the IRA. (For a discussion of the significance of this memorandum, see Kelly (2013), pp 169–76).
Haughey stood unsuccessfully for Dáil Éireann in Dublin North East at the 1951 general election, was defeated again at the 1954 general election, and lost a 1956 by-election caused by the death of Alfie Byrne (qv). He was co-opted to Dublin Corporation in 1953, but defeated at the 1955 local elections, before entering the dáil at the 1957 general election, displacing Harry Colley. This contributed to a growing distance between Haughey and George Colley, becoming lifelong enmity after the latter became a TD for Dublin North East in 1961 (rather than seeking a constituency where he would not compete with Haughey). In later years Haughey often taunted Colley with 'my old school pal'.
Haughey rapidly established a reputation as an able debater, addressing many topics in a dáil dominated by older men and with limited scope for the backbencher. His earliest speech advocated government intervention to enhance business profitability, bringing expansion and employment. In 1960 Haughey became parliamentary secretary (junior minister) to the elderly minister for justice, Oscar Traynor, who was unhappy at the choice. (Haughey was his constituency rival.) Lemass was allegedly reluctant to appoint the inexperienced Haughey. As parliamentary secretary, Haughey piloted five bills through the dáil while Traynor concentrated on administration. Throughout his career he would constantly seek new approaches, identify specific problems and focus on them with relentless attention to detail; he also displayed a consistent capacity to identify talented administrators and pick their brains for advice.
Also in 1960, Haughey entrusted his financial affairs to the accountant Des Traynor (no relation of Oscar). From the late 1960s, Traynor operated an elaborate tax-evasion scheme whereby bank accounts nominally held in the Cayman Islands (and hence, not liable to Irish tax) were freely accessed by Irish-resident holders. Traynor also acted as Haughey's 'bagman', paying his bills while soliciting and receiving payments from wealthy businessmen. When Haughey's finances were investigated by tribunals in the late 1990s, Haughey claimed the then-deceased Traynor managed them without consulting him; this was rejected by the tribunals.
After the 1961 general election, Haughey became minister for justice, and implemented a major programme of legal reform, including the 1964 succession act, which restricted the ability of testators to disinherit spouses and children, the 1962 Criminal Justice (Legal Aid) Act, extradition legislation, and the abolition of capital punishment for most offences.
Haughey cultivated Archbishop John Charles McQuaid (qv), whose mediation defused a protest by rank-and-file gardaí over harsh discipline, poor pay and bad working conditions. When McQuaid lobbied Haughey to secure the banning of a novel by Edna O'Brien, he noted the minister had been shocked by its eroticism, as one might expect from a catholic married man with a growing family. The publication of this memorandum in 1999 aroused comment about McQuaid's naïveté and Haughey's early-developing hypocrisy.
As minister for justice, Haughey was involved in repressing the IRA (reactivating the non-jury special criminal court and launching a publicity campaign on the futility of the armed struggle), ending the 1956–62 'border campaign'. He supported Lemass's use of the phrase 'Northern Ireland' in official statements (implying de facto recognition of the Northern state) as part of Lemass's drive for cross-border cooperation, and later held ministerial meetings with Stormont cabinet members.
Peter Berry (qv), secretary of the Department of Justice, recalled Haughey as the ablest minister of the fourteen he served, getting better the longer he stayed in office. Berry also recalled Haughey's famous rages (he once threw a file at Berry after the secretary opposed a politically motivated appointment). Throughout his career Haughey combined his charismatic and manipulative qualities (his skill at working a crowd was legendary) with an air of menace, and struck terror into underlings with abrupt and unexpected rages alternating with charm. These bullying rages were calculated (he never lost his temper on broadcast media, and was studiously polite to opponents), but also reflected personal volatility driven by insecurity. He also made assertive use of obscene language in private; in November 1984 the music magazine Hot Press created a sensation by publishing a Haughey interview (with the journalist John Waters) without editing out expletives.
In October 1964 Haughey became minister for agriculture after the resignation of Paddy Smith (qv). He was the first Dublin deputy to hold the position, an invidious distinction given the declining relative position of agriculture compared with the developing industrial sector. Haughey's disclosure that he owned a poultry farm in Co. Meath, employing modern battery methods, did little to win sympathy. His tenure in agriculture included confrontations with the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers' Association – farmers picketing government buildings were arrested under the Offences Against the State Act – and the National Farmers' Association (NFA), which organised a protest march to Dublin culminating in an encampment of farmers' leaders outside the Department of Agriculture. The NFA was dominated by large farmers, who traditionally supported Fine Gael; Haughey saw the protests as a politically motivated attack on the government. His promotion from 1964 of a 'new deal for the west' to modernise western small farms sought to undercut the NFA and shore up traditional Fianna Fáil support. Haughey's treatment of the NFA, however, came across as arrogant and uncaring; the farmers' protests aroused sympathy in a society where much of the urban population had recent memories of the land, and historical memories of the land war remained strong. Haughey's failure to distinguish between opposition to the government and to the state, and an opportunistic last-minute concession on milk prices to secure farming votes in the 1966 presidential election, foreshadowed his later career. Haughey advocated Irish membership of the European Economic Community, arguing that European agricultural subsidies would release national funds for social expenditure.
The man in the mohair suit
From his arrival in the dáil Haughey promoted his public image. He briefly employed the journalist Tony Gray (qv) as a public relations consultant, and cultivated sympathetic journalists such as John Healy (qv). Haughey's 1966 attempt (supported by Lemass) to deter the recently established Radio Telefís Éireann from reporting NFA statements heralded an uneasy relationship with the broadcast media. Haughey's expectations were formed by the deferential attitude of Radio Éireann towards the government in the 1940s and 1950s. He adapted to television (recognising, for example, that his target audience in televised debate was the viewing audience rather than the studio), but his imperious image was more akin to an old-style Hollywood film star, a godlike figure exempt from conventional judgement, than the more ingratiating and intimate televisual self-presentation of his protégé Bertie Ahern (taoiseach, 1997–2008).
This Olympian impression was reinforced by Haughey's developing quasi-aristocratic lifestyle. An older generation of politicians (and some younger ones such as Colley and Jack Lynch (qv)) advertised their modest lifestyles as signs of integrity, as being men of the people, in reaction against youthful memories of the opulent ceremonial displays of Edwardian aristocratic society, which Fianna Fáil accused Cumann na nGaedheal ministers of the 1920s of aping. Haughey and some younger ministers – nicknamed 'the men in mohair suits' – dismissed such austerity as rationalising underachievement. Haughey owned racehorses (in the late 1960s he acquired a stud at Ashbourne, Co. Meath) and fox-hunted in Co. Dublin; soon he would live in a Georgian mansion, recalling the hard-living eighteenth-century aristocracy. This combined with an image as modern and glamourised reincarnation of Gaelic chieftainry: 'The Celtic tradition is Croke Park, Fianna Fáil and myself' (O'Brien (2002), 121). The long poem Nightwalker (1967) by the civil servant and poet Thomas Kinsella features an enigmatic portrayal of 'horseman … the sonhusband' (Haughey's Irish-language surname translates as 'horseman'), both arrogant and menacing and a giant resented by lesser men.
Haughey, Donogh O'Malley (qv) and Brian Lenihan – known humorously as 'the three musketeers' – frequented Dublin's limited haute cuisine restaurants, and were featured in lively newspaper social and gossip columns. At Groome's Hotel (subsequently demolished by one of Haughey's developer friends to build offices) in Parnell Square near the Gate Theatre and similar venues, they socialised with businessmen and artists; both groups considered national self-righteousness about established mores to be self-serving complacent humbug, and believed that Ireland needed to be shaken up by men of genius aware of how the world really worked. In this semi-bohemian milieu Haughey projected himself as a man of destiny to whom timid moralism did not apply. He developed a lifelong habit of brazen and shameless lying, covering appearances with artfully inserted qualifications.
Haughey's aristocratic self-image drove his patronage of the arts, assisted by the poet Anthony Cronin, a college friend who became his lifelong cultural adviser and helped formulate some of his initiatives. These included commissioning public and private artworks by contemporary Irish artists and the 1969 exemption of artists' earnings from taxation (when Haughey was minister for finance), seen (with Lenihan's contemporaneous evisceration of literary censorship) as moving from viewing contemporary artists as disreputable immoralists to promoting them as a national asset. Haughey and Cronin founded (1982) the state-sponsored artists' guild Aosdána (modelled on the Académie française), and in the late 1980s oversaw the development of the Temple Bar area of Dublin as a cultural quarter and the restoration of the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, as the Irish Museum of Modern Art. (Some critics maintained, however, that Haughey's cultural initiatives were sporadic and uncoordinated, and failed to develop a self-sustaining infrastructure.) In his later career, while much of the artistic community disliked him as a sinister reactionary charlatan, Haughey retained admirers who saw him as an artist-politician maligned by timid moralists resentful of his fierce, pagan hunger for life's challenges and pleasures. The fact that some criticisms of his artistic pretensions had distinct undertones of snobbish contempt reinforced his admirers.
Haughey's quasi-aristocratic patronage also included expenditure on charities within his constituency (which had significant pockets of urban poverty); he acquired a reputation as a 'soft touch' for those seeking assistance. This was neither entirely disinterested nor purely self-seeking.
Mysteries of finance
Questions were asked about how Haughey afforded such a lifestyle. Speculation centred on his links with self-made businessmen, beneficiaries of the 1960s economic boom. Prominent among these were property developers who demolished parts of Georgian and Victorian Dublin to build office blocks profitably leased to the government to house the expanding civil service. These men often came from impoverished backgrounds; Matt Gallagher, for example, was born on a small farm in Co. Sligo and built a career in construction, first in Britain and then in Ireland. They shared with Haughey pride in getting things done by whatever means necessary, contempt for the existing Irish professional classes, and mingled resentment and admiration for the British establishment. Napoleon I was a favourite comparison for Haughey (and Gallagher) not only because of Haughey's conspicuously short stature (which he endeavoured to conceal in photographs and television appearances), but as role model for combining a flamboyantly displayed aristocratic lifestyle with the image of a Promethean revolutionary genius displacing an effete and resented ancient regime. Gallagher's son Patrick (qv) claimed his father subsidised Haughey as a role model showing that the native Irish could achieve the same grandeur as the old gentry. This image of himself and his business associates as men of the people explains Haughey's jaw-dropping claim in old age (well after the exposure of his own business connections) that Jack Lynch was reluctant to intervene in Northern Ireland because he was 'never really a true Fianna Fáil person adhering to the core value of social compassion. He stood for the respectable business elite, pandering to their whims' (O'Brien (2002), 71.)
During the 1969 general election campaign the Evening Herald newspaper revealed that Haughey had sold Grangemore, a Victorian mansion on forty-five acres in Raheny where the Haughey family had lived since 1957, for over £202,000 to Gallagher, having purchased it for £13,000. Since 1957 the Grangemore estate had been rezoned for housing. (Gallagher subsequently demolished the big house and built housing on the lands.) Gallagher then sold Haughey the 250-acre Abbeville estate at Kinsealy in north Co. Dublin; the Georgian mansion, remodelled by James Gandon (qv) about 1790, became Haughey's principal residence for the rest of his life. Gerard Sweetman (qv) claimed Haughey benefited from the recent repeal of a proviso in the 1965 Finance Act which would have obliged him to pay tax on the proceeds of the sale of Grangemore; Haughey referred the matter to the revenue commissioners, who reported no liability would have arisen even if the proviso had remained. The story was taken up by Conor Cruise O'Brien (1917–2008), a Labour candidate in 1969 in Haughey's constituency, as indicating unhealthy links between the government and nouveaux-riches speculators. Haughey refused to discuss the matter, claiming his finances were private, and topped the poll with an increased vote.
Haughey's lavish lifestyle stimulated considerable speculation among Ireland's growing subculture of investigative journalists for the rest of his political career, but banking confidentiality and libel laws stymied investigation. It was widely believed that Haughey had achieved some lucrative financial coup, involving planning permission or sleeping partnerships with property developers, and invested the proceeds. Some believed that someone who did so well for himself could do well for the country.
Leadership contender and minister for finance
On Lemass's retirement in November 1966 Haughey and Colley declared their candidacies for the party leadership, soon followed by Neil Blaney (qv). Haughey was severely handicapped by the farmers' protests, and withdrew as the party united behind the compromise candidate Jack Lynch. Haughey then became Lynch's finance minister. Lynch, widely viewed as an interim leader, tended to leave ministers to their own devices; while Colley allied with Lynch, Haughey and Blaney jockeyed for advantage in the next leadership contest.
Haughey was now the leading Dublin Fianna Fáil deputy, with particular responsibility for the party organisation in the city. He was Fianna Fáil's national director of elections for the 1965 and 1969 general elections, the 1966 presidential election and the 1968 referendum on the government's unsuccessful proposal to change the electoral system. He also revamped party fund-raising, in 1966 overseeing the creation of Taca where sympathetic businessmen paid to attend public dinners with ministers. This practice (derived from America) produced accusations of selling access to ministers, a perception reinforced by the high-profile participation of property developers. A 1967 speech in which Colley urged members of Fianna Fáil's youth wing not to be discouraged if some in high places had low standards was widely related to Haughey.
As minister for finance during an economic boom, Haughey oversaw imaginative innovations in social welfare. In 1967 pensioners were given free travel on public transport, invariably the first achievement cited by Haughey's defenders in later years; pensioners also received subsidised electricity and fuel. The same year saw the derating of poorer agricultural land and the eligibility of small farmers for seasonal unemployment relief (the 'farmers' dole'). In later budgets, children's allowances were increased and tax concessions given to the horse-breeding industry. These measures were financed by increased indirect taxation, while Haughey defended the government's Keynesian approach of borrowing to finance capital expenditure.
The arms crisis
The Irish government were unprepared when rioting broke out across Northern Ireland in August 1969; the expulsion of many Northern catholics from their homes by loyalists, coupled with earlier attacks on civil-rights demonstrators, provoked widespread sympathy in the republic. In the August–September period several Northern nationalists (some later considerably more moderate) went to Dublin demanding guns to defend their community.
In an impassioned cabinet meeting on 13 August, Haughey joined Blaney and Kevin Boland in arguing that the Irish army should intervene to defend Northern nationalists, although it was incapable of achieving this. The foreign minister, Patrick Hillery (1923–2008), later complained that the supporters of intervention were overcome by emotional self-indulgence and compared the meeting's atmosphere to a ballad session in a pub. Blaney and Boland were known as outspoken republicans, but Haughey's involvement surprised observers (including Blaney and Boland). Some commentators suggest Haughey's involvement was peripheral and reactive, motivated by fear that Blaney might outflank him for the succession. Others argue that this underestimates Haughey's instinctive republicanism. After several hours' discussion, a more pragmatic view prevailed; Lynch addressed the nation on television, inadvertently giving the impression that intervention was imminent.
On 16 August the cabinet established a four-member sub-committee (Haughey, Blaney, Joseph Brennan (qv) and the Louth-based Padraig Faulkner (1918–2012)) to deal with matters relating to partition. The sub-committee met only once, but it gave Haughey and Blaney a pretext to conduct their own Northern policy without formal cabinet approval. Haughey was also given considerable discretion on expending funds for the relief of distress in the North. Some of the £100,000 assigned (augmented by contributions from some of Haughey's business contacts) was used to relieve distress, but Haughey and Blaney also cultivated Northern republicans (with the aim of separating the more biddable traditionalist Northern IRA from the Marxist-influenced, Dublin-based IRA leadership), and purchased weapons for supply to Northern nationalists (supposedly in a doomsday situation). Haughey provided financial and other support for a meeting of Northern republicans at Bailieboro, Co. Cavan, organised by the military intelligence officer Captain James Kelly (qv), who discussed providing arms for community defence. Kelly and others (including John Kelly (qv) and Haughey's brother Padraig ('Jock') (qv)) subsequently travelled in Britain and the Continent establishing contacts with arms dealers and preparing for a consignment of arms to reach Ireland.
In retirement Haughey privately defended his actions, arguing that arming Northern nationalists would have forced Britain to recognise the impossibility of an internal settlement and to negotiate an end to partition with the Irish government. In accordance with this perception, Haughey undertook a unilateral foreign-policy initiative. At a private meeting with the British ambassador Andrew Gilchrist in October 1969, Haughey said there was nothing he would not sacrifice to end partition; he offered to end the constitutional role of the catholic church, repeal catholic-inspired legislation, abolish Irish neutrality, and accept NATO military bases. Gilchrist replied that the British government could not reach an agreement without reference to the unionists.
Haughey's defenders later maintained that the cabinet (including Lynch) knew in general terms what was going on and thereby gave passive consent (denied by several cabinet ministers, including Hillery), and that Lynch's subsequent actions represented a hypocritical political intrigue against cabinet rivals. Even on its own terms, however, the arms intrigue was incompetently executed. News soon reached British intelligence, the IRA (whose leader, Cathal Goulding (qv), Haughey had met in August 1969; by the end of 1969, Sinn Féin openly referred to the ministers' intrigues in its party newspaper), and (through Garda special branch) Peter Berry, who set about frustrating the attempted importation though he privately feared it might be supported by the whole cabinet. (Berry later claimed to have informed Lynch of developments much earlier than Lynch admitted.) Berry's actions reflected what has become the predominant view of the arms intrigue: that handing over large quantities of arms to uncontrollable paramilitaries with a record of hostility to the republic as well as the Northern state, expecting that the increasingly militant unionist population would passively accept Irish reunification, was insanely reckless. Its probable consequence would have been the exacerbation of sectarian conflict in the North and the destabilisation of the republic, even – or especially – if the British withdrew from Northern Ireland. On this view, Lynch's principal fault was not acting earlier against the plotters.
On 21 April 1970 Haughey suffered a riding accident at Abbeville (later rumours that he had been beaten up by a jealous husband are unfounded). This accident, and an earlier incident in which Haughey suffered injuries when his ministerial car ran into a wall near Arklow, Co. Wicklow, allegedly had long-term effects on his personality, exacerbating his personal insecurity and a tendency towards indecision. In the short term, the budget (due that morning) had to be presented by Lynch, and the resolution of the arms affair was somewhat delayed. Lynch initially seemed to acquiesce in Haughey's and Blaney's denials of involvement, but the denouement was precipitated by leaks to the opposition.
On 6 May 1970 Lynch dismissed Haughey and Blaney, provoking rumours about party splits or a military coup d'état. On 28 May Haughey was arrested and subsequently (with Blaney, Captain Kelly, John Kelly and the businessman Albert Luykx) charged with conspiracy to import arms illegally. The charge against Blaney was dismissed at district court level; Haughey and the others were tried before the central criminal court. The trial began on 22 September but was aborted on 29 September; a second trial took place 6–23 October 1970.
Both trials turned on the question of whether the conspiracy to import arms had been illegal; Captain Kelly testified that he had kept his superiors (including James Gibbons (qv), who as defence minister authorised arms imports) fully informed and believed himself and his associates to be carrying out government policy. Haughey, however, claimed that while he had assisted army intelligence with an unspecified cargo, he had not known it contained arms. This claim weakened the defence of Captain Kelly and the other co-accused. Haughey's evidence directly contradicted four witnesses, including Berry (who described a conversation in which Haughey attempted to secure clearance for an arms shipment through Dublin Airport; Haughey admitted the conversation but denied that he mentioned arms). Years later, Kevin Boland revealed that Haughey had discussed the arms importation with him. Summing up, Justice Séamus Henchy (1917–2009) stated that either Haughey or Gibbons must be a perjurer. All the defendants were acquitted. Some of Haughey's opponents later suggested jurors had been bribed or intimidated, but the verdict was apparently determined by Gibbons's admission that Kelly had told him of the planned importation and a wider sense that the plot was an understandable response to the plight of Northern catholics. The acquitted defendants received a rapturous welcome from numerous sympathisers who had been present throughout the trial, and Haughey impulsively called for Lynch to consider his position; he backed down, however, when Lynch received a massive show of support from the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party.
Over the next two years Boland and Blaney (with a few sympathisers) left Fianna Fáil rather than vote confidence in a government containing Gibbons, and extensive bloodshed in Northern Ireland made the scheme to arm Northern nationalists and encourage the nascent Provisional IRA appear even more reckless and sinister than it seemed in 1969–70. Hoping to regain power if he avoided the political wilderness, Haughey stayed with the party, even voting confidence in Gibbons personally. At a dáil public accounts committee inquiry (from 1970) into the expenditure of the money allocated for Northern aid, Haughey again denied he had known of the planned arms importation. The committee obtained access to bank records shedding light on where the money had gone, and heard garda evidence deriving from 'confidential sources' (i.e., IRA informers) which would not be admissible in court, but its powers were limited by a successful lawsuit by Haughey's brother Jock after he was charged with obstructing the committee. Haughey regarded the committee, like the arms trial, as political theatre aimed at discrediting him before the public.
Between 1970 and 1975 (Fianna Fáil was in opposition from March 1973) Haughey, with a few close associates, travelled the country (in cars supplied by the Gallagher Group) three or four evenings a week to address local Fianna Fáil cumann which invited him to speak. He thus cultivated support among the party grassroots, capitalising on continuing ambivalence about the Northern troubles and a sense that, despite Lynch's immense popularity among the general public, he and his lieutenants were remote from the rank and file. The time and effort expended on this 'rubber chicken circuit' paved the way for Haughey's return to front-rank politics.
Haughey's private consolations included the commencement in January 1972 of a long-running affair with the socialite-journalist Terry Keane. She later recalled that Haughey considered it a mark of French-style sophistication to possess an (expensive) mistress, whom he regularly brought to the Continent (with the assistance of business friends). In 1973 Haughey purchased Inishvickillane, one of the Blasket Islands off the Dingle peninsula in Co. Kerry; a holiday home was constructed at great expense (building materials were transported from the mainland by helicopter). Native Irish red deer were subsequently brought to the island as part of a breeding programme, and an attempt was made to establish the white-tailed sea eagle. Haughey became a regular visitor to west Kerry, speaking fluent Irish, sailing his yacht around the coast, and firing the starting gun at the Dingle regatta every year; after his death a monument was erected to him at the regatta site.
At the 1972 ard fheis, Haughey was re-elected one of Fianna Fáil's five honorary vice-presidents. He was ratified as an official candidate for the 1973 general election over the objections of Frank Aiken (qv). If Fianna Fáil had won the 1973 general election, Haughey would probably have been permanently marginalised, but opposition showed up the limitations of much of the party leadership (over-reliant on government office and civil-service assistance) and highlighted the potential benefits of channelling Haughey's debating skills and support among activists. In 1975 Haughey was appointed opposition spokesman on health by Lynch; Gibbons reluctantly consented after warning that Haughey would eventually destroy the party. Haughey, like most other observers, expected the Fine Gael–Labour coalition government to survive the next election, forcing Lynch's resignation. Recalled his associate Frank Dunlop: 'Charlie had nothing else to do and was consumed by ambition. Every waking moment was devoted to one thing: the ousting of Jack Lynch and his own installation as leader' (Dunlop, 63).
The return to the front bench assisted Haughey in maintaining his reckless spending on already overdrawn accounts with Allied Irish Bank. Attempts by the bank to stabilise or reduce his burgeoning overdraft were met with temporisation or flat-out threats that he could be a dangerous enemy because of his political and business contacts; occasional repayments (such as the proceeds of the sale of shares and of his farm at Ashbourne, Co. Meath) were soon eclipsed by further spending. Much of this debt was written off after Haughey became taoiseach in 1979, and the remainder was cleared by a payment from the Gallagher Group in the guise of an option on part of Haughey's Kinsealy estate. In April 1982, during Haughey's second term as taoiseach, the Gallagher Group collapsed because of reckless speculation by Patrick Gallagher; the liquidators decided the option could not be realised because its terms made enforcement impossible.
Minister for health and social welfare
After the Fianna Fáil landslide in the 1977 general election, in which he headed the poll in the new Artane constituency, Haughey became minister for health and social welfare. He undertook various social welfare improvements (including further concessions to pensioners), expedited a hospital-building programme, and revamped and expanded the Health Education Board, whose high-profile publicity campaigns on such matters as fitness and the dangers of smoking also drew attention to Haughey.
In February–March 1979 Haughey piloted a family planning act through the dáil in response to a 1973 supreme court ruling (the McGee case) overturning the existing ban on contraception as a violation of marital privacy. (In 1974 a bill giving effect to this ruling was defeated because of divisions within the coalition government.) Haughey's bill made contraceptives available on prescription to married couples only. His 'Irish solution to an Irish problem' was widely derided by liberals, but Haughey enacted the measure despite discontent among some conservative catholic Fianna Fáil TDs.
The succession battle
Many TDs first elected in 1977 were grassroots Haughey supporters. As a short-term boom driven by government spending gave way to renewed economic crisis, and the first direct elections to the European parliament (June 1979) saw a heavy decline in the Fianna Fáil vote, these TDs were joined by others who thought Haughey might provide the firm leadership needed to stabilise the economy and preserve their seats. Haughey's marginalisation from the core leadership left him relatively untouched by the economic setbacks in which Colley, Lynch's deputy and preferred successor, was deeply implicated. A number of journalists who warned of the dangerous state of the public finances suggested Haughey was best placed to address the problem.
Some TDs, notably a 'group of five' including Sean Doherty (qv) and the future taoiseach Albert Reynolds (qv), actively canvassed for Haughey to replace Lynch and received passive encouragement from Haughey. Although it was clear Lynch would retire soon, the Haughey faction wished to emphasise the weakness of the Lynch–Colley leadership. (President Patrick Hillery attributed rumours about his supposed marital difficulties to Haughey supporters following such a strategy.)
The anti-Haughey faction relied (fatally in retrospect) on their dominance in the cabinet and assumed that the air of scandal surrounding Haughey guaranteed his defeat, but they did possess significant support deriving from local and personal loyalties and from fear of Haughey as irresponsible and amoral. In the late seventies and early eighties pro- and anti-Haughey factions developed at constituency level around rival TDs or aspirants to election. This contributed to a tendency for the party's electoral machinery to be replaced by personalised campaigns around individual candidates, with implications both for corruption (donations were unregulated and often given to individual candidates rather than to the party) and electoral cohesion (defective intra-party transfers were to be one reason for Fianna Fáil's failure ever to win an overall majority under Haughey). Haughey (whose preference for a large personal vote rather than vote management to maximise seats often cost Fianna Fáil an extra seat in his constituency) engaged in both types of behaviour.
After months of bickering and unexpected Fianna Fáil defeats in two by-elections on 7 November 1979 in Lynch's Cork stronghold, Lynch resigned abruptly, thinking Haughey would be caught unprepared. While Haughey (though not his supporters) was overly optimistic about his support among TDs, Colley and his associates were even more complacent, and were wrong-footed to discover that Colley's own junior minister, Ray MacSharry, was an active Haughey supporter, and that Michael O'Kennedy, minister for foreign affairs, would vote for Haughey.
First term as taoiseach, 1979–81
On 7 December 1979 Haughey defeated Colley by 44 votes to 38. Although some Colley supporters now rallied to the new leader, Colley declared that since Haughey had been disloyal to Lynch he could not expect unqualified loyalty. Colley and some allies considered refusing to support Haughey in the dáil vote; Colley eventually joined Haughey's cabinet on condition he remained tánaiste with a veto on appointments of ministers for justice and defence. Haughey also initially failed to dislodge the Lynch–Colley supporter Senator Des Hanafin from control of the party's fund-raising operations; only in 1982 did Haughey assume control of fund-raising.
On 11 December Haughey was elected taoiseach after a bitter debate in which Noel Browne (qv) compared him to Richard Nixon and the Portuguese dictator Salazar, while Garret FitzGerald stated that he had 'a flawed pedigree' in a manner misinterpreted by many Haughey supporters as snobbish. Gibbons and three other Colley supporters were dropped from the cabinet; their replacements included MacSharry, Reynolds and Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, the first woman cabinet minister since Constance Markievicz (qv). In contrast to Lynch's practice of working through the cabinet, Haughey operated a more presidential style of government, with power concentrated in a vastly expanded taoiseach's office and contacts in the departments who bypassed their ministers and reported directly to him; this was seen by critics as dictatorial, though it can be seen as anticipating a wider late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century tendency for governments in Westminster-style systems to downgrade cabinet and parliament in favour of presidential-style managerialism. As with this presidentialism, Haughey's style of leadership also tended to politicise the civil service and weaken the distinction between government and state.
It was widely expected that Haughey would take firm control of the economic situation (after becoming taoiseach he acquired the nickname, 'the Boss', formerly attached to Lemass, whose mannerisms he sedulously imitated). On 10 January 1980 Haughey made a television broadcast warning that Ireland could not go on 'living way beyond our means' and that retrenchment was necessary. (In later years these remarks would be contrasted with his own ongoing lavish personal expenditure.) Haughey failed to follow this up with reductions in government expenditure; instead, there were further increases, justified as preventing further hardship during an economic slump. Haughey and his lieutenants accused opposition critics of advocating the monetarist economics associated with the Thatcher government in Britain (which vastly increased unemployment) and proclaimed that the government stood for 'boom and bloom' against 'doom and gloom'. This partly reflected Haughey's Keynesian instincts, derived from memories of the 1960s boom; but it was primarily motivated by a desire to buy his own mandate at the next general election. Not only was public expenditure recklessly increased, but misleading estimates were issued in the 1980 budget. (After Haughey's defeat at the June 1981 general election it was discovered that public spending had outrun the estimates and a stringent interim budget was required.) Haughey's finance ministers, Michael O'Kennedy (who was awaiting appointment to the European Commission) and Gene Fitzgerald (qv), were weak and regularly overridden by Haughey. This fiscal irresponsibility, coupled with fears concerning Haughey's ultra-republican leanings, encouraged widespread middle-class fear and hostility. It also antagonised some of Haughey's initial supporters, notably the Kildare TD Charlie McCreevy.
Shortly after becoming taoiseach, Haughey declared his first priority was to end partition by agreement with the British government. In May 1980 Haughey met Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in London, achieving an immediate rapport; both were extroverted unreflective power politicians, combining ferocious application to detail with an appeal to a romanticised image of reviving national glory. In December 1980 Thatcher and Haughey held a follow-up summit in Dublin Castle with high-profile ministerial teams. Haughey oversaw extensive preparations, with joint working parties preparing studies on every aspect of Anglo–Irish relations. (These studies were drawn on extensively in later Anglo–Irish initiatives.) Haughey was accused of willingness to compromise Irish neutrality if partition ended.
The summit communiqué spoke of re-examining 'the totality of relationships between these islands'. Haughey and Brian Lenihan promptly made reckless public claims that Thatcher was willing to consider ending partition in the near future. Thatcher distanced herself from these claims, and Anglo–Irish relations rapidly cooled. Still hoping for a historic deal, Haughey took a relatively quiescent attitude to the H-block hunger strikes of 1980 and 1981, provoking fierce republican criticism and the targeting of Haughey by H-block demonstrators.
Haughey had also overestimated his ability to deploy nationalism to exalt Fianna Fáil as the embodiment of the national interest, especially when the republic was severely affected by a worldwide economic downturn. A 1982 satirical play, Kill, by Hugh Leonard (1926–2009) presents a Haughey character who tries to extend his tenancy of the crumbling big house (the republic) by distracting the trustees (the electorate) from his mismanagement through grandiose and incompatible promises about regaining the six-room gate lodge (Northern Ireland), which is attacked by a hooligan (the IRA) who is finally revealed as Haughey's son (resulting from the arms crisis).
Haughey intended to call the general election in February 1981, but it had to be postponed when a fire on 14 February in the Stardust nightclub in Artane in north Dublin caused forty-eight deaths and over 200 injuries. By the time the poll took place in June the economic situation had deteriorated, while the 1981 H-block hunger strike led to the election of two prisoner candidates whose seats would almost certainly have otherwise gone to Fianna Fáil. After a campaign heavily centred on Haughey, featuring regular helicopter trips (still a novelty) and the campaign song 'Arise and follow Charlie', Fianna Fáil won 78 seats (of 166) and 45.3 per cent of first-preference votes. Haughey topped the poll in Dublin North Central, which he represented for the remainder of his career, but a Fine Gael–Labour coalition led by Garret FitzGerald took office as a minority government.
Opposition leader 1981–2
In opposition, Haughey pursued a reactive approach, attacking FitzGerald's proposals for a 'constitutional crusade' to prepare for reunification by removing catholic-influenced provisions from Irish law. He accused FitzGerald of abandoning the supposed achievements of the Haughey–Thatcher summits by his declaring that Irish reunification required the consent of Ulster unionists. Internal Fianna Fáil tensions over Haughey's leadership were temporarily defused when FitzGerald's government fell after some independent TDs refused to support its budget (27 January 1982).
On the night FitzGerald's government collapsed, Haughey and other leading Fianna Fáil figures, including Brian Lenihan, attempted to contact President Hillery to persuade him to refuse a dáil dissolution and give Haughey a chance to form a minority government. This would have been within the president's constitutional powers, but would have been widely perceived as gross partisanship; the belligerent tone of the communications led Hillery to regard them as interference with the presidential office.
GUBU; second term as taoiseach, 1982
During the subsequent election campaign, Haughey initially appealed to economic populism, but under pressure from party colleagues as well as FitzGerald, he stated he would accept the outgoing government's spending cuts. At the February 1982 general election Haughey took 81 seats and 47.3 per cent of first-preference votes; this was his strongest electoral performance and a few thousand extra votes in certain constituencies would have given an overall majority. His second term as taoiseach gave scope to accusations that a Haughey majority government would become a virtual dictatorship refusing to distinguish between party and state, chronicled (from a viewpoint decidedly unsympathetic to Haughey) in the 1983 book The Boss by the journalists Joe Joyce and Peter Murtagh.
An attempt to depose Haughey as party leader for failing to secure a majority fizzled out when leading opponents decided the time was not opportune. Haughey formed a government after offering Tony Gregory (1947–2009), the newly elected left-wing independent deputy for Dublin Central, a number of economic and social concessions for his inner-city base. This was criticised as opportunist auction politics at a time when it was desperately necessary to cut public expenditure, although FitzGerald also tried to negotiate with Gregory and the deal did address long-neglected problems in the north inner city. Haughey was also initially supported by the three Workers' Party deputies.
Colley refused to join the new government after being refused reappointment as tánaiste. (Two Haughey opponents – including Desmond O'Malley, now virtual leader of the dissidents – became ministers.) Haughey's second government was marked by a series of blunders and misfortunes, magnified further by rumours, nicknamed 'GUBU' by Conor Cruise O'Brien after Haughey described circumstances surrounding the resignation of his attorney general as 'grotesque, unbelievable, bizarre and unprecedented'. (The attorney general had given accommodation to an acquaintance who had – unbeknownst to him – committed two high-profile murders.)
Haughey's justice minister, Sean Doherty, was accused of improperly influencing garda operations in his constituency to favour relatives and political supporters. Meanwhile, Doherty and other Haughey supporters believed (correctly) that sections of the media were working with dissidents within the Fianna Fáil party and the cabinet to undermine Haughey's leadership, and (incorrectly) that this constituted subversive action against the state. Doherty therefore ordered Garda special branch to bug the telephones of Bruce Arnold and Geraldine Kennedy, two journalists close to the dissidents.
The Haughey government initially supported European Community sanctions against Argentina after that country's military junta seized the British-ruled Falkland Islands in April 1982. (Ireland held one of the rotating seats on the UN security council during the conflict.) Britain sent a task force to retake the islands while negotiations proceeded, and the first major loss of life of the conflict came when the Argentine cruiser General Belgrano was torpedoed by a British submarine on 2 May with the loss of 323 lives. The Haughey government denounced the sinking and called for sanctions against Argentina to be lifted. This volte-face was widely denounced as unthinking and visceral anglophobic support for a bloodstained military junta. It must be said that the sinking of the Belgrano was widely criticised, that even some of Haughey's opponents regarded the government's action as a legitimate assertion of Irish sovereignty and neutrality (though these opponents generally regarded neutrality as an absolute principle, unlike Haughey), and that its consequences were unpredictable. Nevertheless, it proved a severe miscalculation; thereafter Thatcher refused to meet Haughey except in brief and frosty encounters on the fringes of European summit meetings.
Haughey sought to improve his dáil position by appointing the Fine Gael TD Richard Burke as European commissioner, but Fine Gael's unexpected victory in the ensuing by-election meant he had sacrificed valuable patronage for nothing, while this display of electoral vulnerability weakened Workers' Party support for the government. The government's vulnerability was underlined by the deaths of Fianna Fáil TDs for Galway East (regained in a by-election) and Clare (unfilled when the government fell).
On 1 October 1982, Charlie McCreevy moved a vote of no confidence in Haughey's party leadership; Desmond O'Malley and Martin O'Donoghue resigned from the cabinet to support the motion. On 6 October the motion was defeated by 58 votes to 22 after a roll-call. Some opponents were attacked by drunken Haughey supporters outside Leinster House; Gibbons was struck and subsequently suffered a heart attack that left him unable to attend the dáil.
Shortly afterwards, the government issued an economic policy statement, The way forward, reflecting the influence of Ray MacSharry (now minister for finance), and advocating heavy expenditure cuts. The Workers' Party withdrew support, as did Gregory (reluctantly), and the government fell on 4 November 1982. In the ensuing general election Fianna Fáil was reduced to 75 seats (on 45.3 per cent of the vote), and FitzGerald formed a new majority Fine Gael–Labour coalition with 86 seats.
Arise and follow Charlie: the leadership cult
The November 1982 general election initially strengthened Haughey within the party, as several internal opponents lost their seats. Early in 1983, however, the new Fine Gael minister for justice, Michael Noonan, revealed that Sean Doherty had ordered the tapping of the telephones of Arnold and Kennedy. Both Doherty and Haughey claimed that Haughey had been unaware of the tapping, but a vote of no confidence was moved by Ben Briscoe TD, who had not been one of the October dissentients. After a period of indecision, Haughey announced he would defend his leadership. Although it initially appeared that a majority of the party opposed him, Haughey outmanoeuvred them with the assistance of an adjournment in response to the death of Clem Coughlan TD. Plausible deniability was established on the phone tapping; the appearance of multiple leadership contenders (some encouraged by Haughey) raised the prospect of further disunity, while Haughey appealed to the grassroots with the message that the dissidents' refusal to accept his repeated confirmation as leader had caused the party's misfortunes. On 7 February 1983 Haughey was retained by 40 votes to 33. This consolidated his control of the party, as remaining opponents were marginalised or accepted defeat.
Arise and follow Charlie; the personality cult
Haughey's failure to secure an overall majority for Fianna Fáil throughout his time as leader, and the disrepute attached to him after official confirmation of his financial transgressions (during this period in opposition he famously used the official fund given to the opposition leader for his own private expenditure, and to launder payments received from other sources) obscures the intense enthusiasm he aroused among his followers. In terms of first-preference votes, his performance compares favourably with that of subsequent Fianna Fáil leaders (and elections in the 1980s witnessed a much higher turnout than later elections). His electoral problem was that polarisation between 'Fianna Fáil and the rest' was so intense that second preferences from other sources were minimal.
The journalist Stephen Collins recalled Haughey's 'ecstatic' reception at the 1980 Fianna Fáil ard fheis: delegates 'expressed their devotion with an almost religious intensity, erecting little shrines to Haughey and displaying photographs and posters on tables they had pillaged from the press area' (Collins (2001), 142). This partly reflected traditional Fianna Fáil loyalties, partly a sense that Haughey represented true republicanism (and to some extent, catholicism) against privileged 'West Brit' opinion-formers in middle-class Dublin 4, and partly a sense that Haughey was a man of destiny who could solve the country's problems if given a fair chance.
The image of Haughey as defender of provincial Ireland was symbolised by his assignment of government funding in 1982 for the completion of Knock International Airport at the behest of Monsignor James Horan (qv). The project was widely ridiculed in metropolitan circles as a 'foggy, boggy' white elephant with sectarian undertones, and was de-funded by the FitzGerald government, but regarded in Connacht as a major resource for the development of the west. When the airport was completed in 1986 (using privately raised funds) Haughey was invited to open it; it proved moderately successful and strengthened Fianna Fáil in Mayo for two decades.
The mindset of some provincial Haughey admirers is reflected in the book Operation brogue (1984) by the publisher John Feehan (qv). Feehan, who developed intense republican views in later life, suggested that British intelligence wished to unseat Haughey; anyone who opposed Haughey was thereby a conscious or unconscious accomplice of British intelligence. Feehan implied Doherty had undertaken a legitimate investigation of British-directed subversion that would be made public in due course. Feehan next produced The statesman (1985), eulogising Haughey as a visionary patriot who would revive the Irish economy and reassert national principles. His Mercier Press published a voluminous collection of Haughey's speeches, The spirit of the nation (1986) (the collection, edited by Haughey's adviser Martin Mansergh, was bought in bulk by Fianna Fáil after cost overruns threatened the solvency of Mercier Press).
Back in opposition, 1982–7
Under FitzGerald's second government, Haughey pursued opposition for opposition's sake. He emphasised the national question and divisions within the government parties over FitzGerald's liberal policies on social issues, and capitalised on the unpopularity of government measures to address the economic situation (themselves limited in scope by the concerns of the Labour party). An early opportunity arose on the issue of a constitutional amendment, intended to preclude the legalisation of abortion in Ireland, which both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael had pledged to support in 1982. Shortly before the November 1982 election, Haughey announced a wording for the proposed amendment. FitzGerald initially accepted this, but after returning to government announced that the wording was flawed and proposed an alternative that would preclude legalisation of abortion by the courts but not by a future dáil. A number of Fine Gael and Labour deputies voted with Fianna Fáil to reinstate the original wording, which was added to the constitution after a referendum in September 1983.
In 1983–4, FitzGerald convened the New Ireland Forum, intended to achieve a consensus among constitutional nationalist parties and shore up the SDLP in Northern Ireland against the growing electoral challenge of Sinn Féin. Haughey used a tightly disciplined Fianna Fáil delegation and exploited differences of opinion within the SDLP to move the forum in a 'greener' direction; when the forum's report suggested three options for a constitutional settlement, including a unitary state, Haughey seized on this and dismissed the other two. After Desmond O'Malley protested, he was removed from the front bench and lost the party whip. Haughey's new press secretary P. J. Mara enlivened the occasion by announcing humorously that Fianna Fáil was run on Mussolini's principle of 'Uno Duce, una voce … no more nibbling at my leader's bum'. Mara cultivated the generally hostile media with some success, partly offsetting the damage done by the retirement of Douglas Gageby (qv) (who felt some degree of sympathy for Haughey on the basis of his own memories of the 1940s and 1950s, and had balanced out the anti-Haughey views of most of his journalists) as editor of the Irish Times, and the ongoing decline of the Irish Press group (traditionally sympathetic to Fianna Fáil and republicanism).
In February 1985, O'Malley was expelled from Fianna Fáil after delivering an eloquent speech in support of a coalition bill to make contraceptives more freely available (though he abstained on the vote, his stance may have discouraged some government deputies from rebelling and thus secured the measure's passage).
As FitzGerald undertook negotiations with the British government leading to the 1985 Anglo–Irish agreement, Haughey complained of an unacceptable and unconstitutional recognition of partition (though the agreement built on some of his earlier initiatives and involved formal British recognition of an Irish role in the North, to the horror of unionists). Brian Lenihan was sent to America to influence Irish-American opinion-formers against the agreement; this exceeded the conventions of opposition. Mary Harney, one of Haughey's backbench opponents, resigned from the party to support the agreement; she subsequently joined O'Malley to form the Progressive Democrats (PDs), appealing to middle-class voters with a combination of economic and social liberalism. Two more Fianna Fáil deputies defected to the new party; a meltdown was averted when other prominent Haughey critics remained with Fianna Fáil, but the PDs drew significant support from discontented Fianna Fáil activists and supporters as well as Fine Gaelers who thought their party had been paralysed by coalition with Labour.
After passage of the Anglo–Irish agreement, the FitzGerald government tried to remove the constitutional prohibition on divorce in a referendum (25 June 1986). Although Fianna Fáil remained nominally neutral, most party deputies and activists assisted anti-divorce campaigners in defeating the measure. Haughey issued a personal statement expressing his belief in the importance of the family. Years later it was revealed that he had just returned from holidaying with Terry Keane.
Haughey also expressed concern over the implications of the Single European Act (SEA) (which furthered European integration) for Irish sovereignty. This was pure opportunism; after a supreme court case brought by the economist Raymond Crotty (qv) led to a constitutional referendum on the SEA, Haughey, back in government, campaigned successfully for its ratification.
In the mid 1980s, Haughey became more convinced of the necessity for stringent economic cutbacks (partly through briefings by leading economists and a new acquaintance, the financier Dermot Desmond). Although Haughey avoided specific commitments, MacSharry was brought back to the front bench (his focus had shifted towards European politics) with a mandate to implement economic rationalisation.
Return to government: 1987–9
FitzGerald's government collapsed in January 1987 when the Labour party refused to accept proposed budget cuts. At the subsequent general election Haughey won 81 seats with 44.1 per cent of first-preference votes and formed a minority government. (The PDs won 14 seats on 11.8 per cent.) Haughey and MacSharry promptly adopted and extended the proposed Fine Gael cuts. Haughey intensely supervised the process, crushing any effort by ministers to soften the blow to their own departments. The Department of Health, with which Haughey was most familiar, was particularly hard-hit; wags suggested a 1987 Fianna Fáil election slogan, 'health cuts hurt the old, the sick and the handicapped', read as a criticism of the FitzGerald government, had actually been a promise.
Shortly after the election, Haughey suffered a personal financial crisis when Guinness Mahon bank, through which Des Traynor conducted Haughey's bill-paying service, was taken over by Japanese owners who demanded that Haughey settle his account; he was baled out by the businessman Ben Dunne junior.
An agreement with the public-sector trade unions (whose minds were concentrated by the defeats Thatcher had inflicted on British unions, and who found Fianna Fáil more congenial than the coalition) secured the Programme for National Recovery (October 1987), which limited public-sector pay rises; it was succeeded in due course by the Programme for Economic and Social Progress. The government was assisted by the decision of the new Fine Gael leader, Alan Dukes, to support government measures in the national interest (the 'Tallaght strategy'), and by an economic recovery in Britain and America that drew in exports.
Haughey's U-turns included accepting the Anglo–Irish agreement and extraditing political offenders (after the November 1987 killing of civilians by an IRA bomb at a war memorial in Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh, caused widespread outrage). This dismayed some gullible activists (including Feehan, whose subsequent Apology to the Irish people declared that, while he still believed British intelligence had plotted against Haughey, he now saw that both they and he had been mistaken in taking Haughey's republicanism seriously). At the suggestion of Dermot Desmond, Haughey drove through the creation of the International Financial Services Centre in the Dublin docklands. This made Dublin a significant centre for financial services with considerable benefit to the public finances. Less happily, Haughey gave state financial backing to a plan by the prominent businessman Larry Goodman to reorganise the Irish beef industry. The reorganisation never materialised and Goodman became embroiled in financial difficulties and scandals over the supply of substandard meat to export markets.
Haughey initiated clandestine contacts with Sinn Féin (via John Hume of the SDLP, Fr Alex Reid of the Redemptorist monastery in Clonard, west Belfast, and Haughey's adviser Martin Mansergh), which in the long term helped to bring about the 1990s peace process. Haughey's ability to exploit this was limited, however, by his longstanding reputation as unduly sympathetic to physical-force republicanism and by an upsurge of IRA violence in the late 1980s; it was left to his successor, Albert Reynolds, to build on these contacts.
Last government; leading a coalition, 1989–92
In May 1989, Haughey used a dáil defeat over compensation for haemophiliacs who had contracted AIDS from blood transfusions as pretext for a general election. He hoped the government's successes and a divided opposition would win him an overall majority; he also saw the election as an opportunity to seek personal 'election contributions' from businessmen and divert much of this money for his own use. (Retirement was growing closer – Haughey suffered health problems in 1986 – and would need to be financed.) The electorate blamed Haughey for precipitating an unnecessary election; Fianna Fáil retained its vote but lost four seats, and Fine Gael refused further support to a Haughey minority government.
The Progressive Democrats had also suffered serious reverses, but retained enough seats to give Haughey an overall majority. When the PDs would settle for nothing less than full coalition, Haughey circumvented considerable opposition within Fianna Fáil ('only myself could have done it', he boasted) and concluded a deal giving the PDs two cabinet positions and a junior ministry. This abandonment of a Fianna Fáil 'core value' (i.e., that coalitions were less than fully democratic, lacking a clear mandate) antagonised many Haughey loyalists, who looked for leadership to the new minister for finance, Albert Reynolds. (MacSharry had become European commissioner.)
In the short term, coalition strengthened Haughey's position. Ireland held the presidency of the European Union in the first half of 1990, and Haughey oversaw extensive and meticulous preparation for this task (including a major refurbishment of Government Buildings on Merrion Square, christened 'the Chas Mahal' by Dublin wits). Two major European summits in Dublin allowed Haughey to display his characteristic showmanship at ceremonial events, to take a leading role in securing European acceptance of German reunification despite the reluctance of Britain, and to a lesser extent France, and to oversee the establishment of an intergovernmental conference on political union. The consequent goodwill of German Chancellor Helmut Kohl assisted Haughey in securing increased European funding, but his remaining period as taoiseach was beset by physical and political decline.
In 1989 Brian Lenihan underwent a liver transplant at the (extremely expensive) Mayo Clinic in the USA, funded by private donors. (It was later revealed that much more was raised than necessary; Haughey appropriated the surplus.) The ensuing wave of sympathy, coupled with Lenihan's popularity with the Fianna Fáil grassroots, secured him presidential nomination in 1990, despite Haughey's initial reluctance. (He feared the government would lose the by-election to replace Lenihan.) During the campaign, Lenihan denied he had phoned Áras an Uachtaráin in January 1982 to persuade President Hillery not to grant a dáil dissolution to Garret FitzGerald; a postgraduate student revealed that during a taped research interview Lenihan said that he had made the call. The Progressive Democrats threatened to leave government if Lenihan remained in cabinet; Haughey dismissed him, in an act Lenihan regarded as gross personal betrayal. In the presidential election Lenihan was defeated by the Labour-supported candidate, Mary Robinson. His defeat further increased discontent among Haughey's traditional supporters. One TD asked what Haughey would do if the PDs demanded his own resignation. Robinson's admirers promoted her as activist symbol of a new modern Ireland, leading to tensions as Haughey used constitutional restrictions on the presidential office to try to keep Robinson from eclipsing him.
A surreal fin-de-régime atmosphere was intensified by Terry Keane's activities as a gossip columnist in the Sunday Independent from 1989, with frequent references to 'Sweetie', and by the popular RTÉ satirical radio programme Scrap Saturday, which regularly featured impressions by Dermot Morgan (qv) of an autocratic 'Boss' as an absurd and toothless ogre berating an obsequious P. J. Mara and clinging to preposterously outdated pretensions to sophistication. From September 1991, scandals involving semi-state bodies intensified public perceptions that a 'golden circle' of businessmen was profiting from governmental favouritism; several tribunals were established, the most prominent of which investigated illegal practices in the beef industry.
In November 1991 a backbench TD moved a motion of no confidence in Haughey's leadership; this precipitated a challenge by Reynolds, who was dismissed from cabinet with another minister and three junior ministers. Haughey prevailed by 55 votes to 22, but his mishandling of the subsequent cabinet reshuffle provoked another assertion of PD influence, further weakening his position. Reynolds manoeuvred to remove Haughey without antagonising party opinion more than necessary. After a private discussion with the Fianna Fáil TD John O'Connell (1930–2013) about events surrounding the granting of an Irish passport to the Saudi Arabian businessman Mahmoud Fustok and relatives under a controversial 'passports for investment' scheme (Fustok made a payment to Haughey represented as being for a racehorse but strongly suspected of being a bribe), Haughey privately agreed to step down in the near future.
In January 1992 Sean Doherty claimed that Haughey had been fully aware of the 1982 telephone tappings. Despite Haughey's denials, the Progressive Democrats indicated that they could no longer support him. On 30 January 1992 Haughey announced his retirement as Fianna Fáil leader, and on 11 February gave a bravura final dáil performance as taoiseach, quoting Shakespeare's Othello: 'I have done the State some service, and they know't.'
Retirement and disgrace: 1992–2006
Haughey retired from the dáil at the November 1992 general election and settled down to dignified retirement. He was succeeded as TD for Dublin North Central by his son, Sean – (senator 1987–92, TD 1992–2011, junior minister 2006–11). Haughey was soon contrasted in retrospect with the gauche and provincial image of Reynolds, who proved considerably less adroit in handling the PDs. (Reynolds's assumption that Haughey's departure as leader would by itself produce a Fianna Fáil overall majority was falsified at the 1992 general election, which he precipitated, with the worst election result for Fianna Fáil since the 1920s (39.1 per cent of votes, 68 seats)). Haughey's graceful and dignified appearances on public occasions (as when his horse Flashing Steel won the 1995 Irish Grand National) were well received. In the mid 1990s it was occasionally suggested that Haughey become president when Robinson left.
In 1997 Haughey's reputation finally disintegrated. During a business dispute between Ben Dunne junior and his siblings in 1994, Dunne swore an affidavit revealing contributions to politicians, including Haughey; although the dispute was settled out of court, rumours began to circulate. After revelations about a questionable business relationship between Dunne and the former Fine Gael minister Michael Lowry, the McCracken tribunal was established in February 1997 to investigate payments to politicians by Dunne. In evidence Dunne described having casually given Haughey bank drafts for IR£1.3 million on a golf course in 1991. Haughey denied in writing that he had received donations from Dunne, but the tribunal was able to establish that he had received the bank drafts; Haughey then admitted that he had received them and had misled his own legal team. The tribunal explicitly rejected Haughey's subsequent explanations and sent its report to the director of public prosecutions. A prosecution was subsequently brought against Haughey, but in June 2000 it was suspended indefinitely on grounds of prejudicial publicity.
The Moriarty tribunal was then established to investigate payments received by Haughey and by Lowry. The tribunals possessed legal powers to secure disclosure of records and command testimony unavailable to previous enquirers, and their hearings revealed to an eager public that Haughey's lifestyle had rested on payments from some of the country's richest men, sometimes disguised as political donations, and supplemented from such dubious sources as the fund raised to pay for Brian Lenihan's liver operation. The public learned in excruciating detail of the large debts written off by Allied Irish Banks when much smaller debtors were being pursued, and of the luxuries acquired while exhorting the Irish public to tighten their belts. (In 1991 alone Haughey spent £16,000 on handmade shirts from the Paris luxury supplier Charvet.) The glamorous man of mystery now appeared as a seedy beggar.
Haughey's former protégé, now taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, declared his former mentor had disregarded Fianna Fáil's ethical standards; Haughey was quietly pushed out of the party and his role in its history downplayed, while Lynch (unmentionable under Haughey) was rehabilitated on his death in 1999 as a symbol of rectitude. In May 1999 Terry Keane added further humiliation by appearing on RTÉ television's Late, late show to discuss their relationship, and publishing indiscreet reminiscences in the Irish edition of the Sunday Times. In 2000 Haughey was diagnosed as suffering from prostate cancer; an application to be excused from giving further testimony to the Moriarty tribunal was refused but he was allowed to testify in private. He consistently denied that he had done favours for his donors, maintaining that it was quite acceptable that a statesman should receive financial assistance from admirers.
In 2000 Haughey made a tax settlement of IR£6 million with the revenue commissioners, financed by selling fifteen acres of the Abbeville estate to the property developers Treasury Holdings. The remainder of the estate (with the exception of house plots gifted to the Haughey children) was sold to Manor Park Homes in 2005 for €45 million, but Haughey was allowed to remain for the rest of his life.
In his last years, Haughey, in private conversation, regularly denounced the Ahern government as the worst in Irish history because it lacked a grand strategy and merely reacted to events. He predicted (accurately) that Ahern was allowing the ongoing economic boom to develop into an unsustainable bubble, and lamented that he could have done much more for the country had the same vast economic resources been available to him. Although his defenders argued that the Northern Ireland peace process which centred on the 1998 Good Friday agreement owed much to his earlier endeavours, Haughey privately complained that it was 'inherently unstable' because it recognised partition and reduced nationalist objectives to 'protect[ing] the nationalists within a failed state' (O'Brien (2002), 9). This was the embittered purism which often overtakes leaders in retirement.
Charles Haughey died of prostate cancer at Abbeville on 13 June 2006; he received a state funeral and was buried in St Fintan's cemetery, Sutton, Co. Dublin, with a eulogy by Ahern. On 19 December 2006 the Moriarty tribunal reported that Haughey had received over IR£9 million from businessmen between 1979 and 1996, that his receipt of such gifts was unethical, and that he had done corrupt favours for some donors (including negotiating with the revenue commissioners to secure a tax write-off for Ben Dunne).
Even after the exposure of Haughey's financial improprieties, many of his friends and associates continued to argue that his critics had an unbalanced view of him and that his achievements would be recognised in due course. Any assessment must recognise the immense administrative abilities and application to work which lifted him to the heights from the straitened restrictions of de Valera's Ireland, his ability to command intense loyalty, his imaginative flair and achievements as a minister in the 1960s and in his last years as taoiseach. He told interviewers that one of the attractions for his early political career was the opportunity not merely to manage but to remake, almost to create, the Irish state, and his role in that project cannot be denied. Haughey was essentially a technician of power rather than an ideologue, and his inconsistencies must be seen in that light. Nevertheless, he aspired to be much more than a simple technician, to be a defining architect of Irish society on the scale of de Valera or Lemass. In this he failed, to some extent because the changes in Irish society to which he himself had contributed undermined the possibility of that style of leadership. He appealed to forces which once gave Fianna Fáil hegemony, but which though still powerful were no longer equal to the task. Yet he was not simply a representative figure.
Haughey was the defining Irish politician of the last third of the twentieth century, but not in the way he had intended; he embodied a process by which Irish society came to realise that, if it had great unrecognised potential, it was also darker, grubbier, more provincial and corrupt than it had previously acknowledged. If the unrealised hopes his followers placed in him had more substance than is often acknowledged, so had the unrealised fears of his opponents. His innovative risk-taking often became delusional gambling. He gambled repeatedly with the Irish economy and contributed to the economic problems he later resolved. In the arms trial, even when every allowance is made for the circumstances of the time, he gambled with the possibility of uncontrollable anarchy and death and destruction even worse than the Northern troubles which followed. This recklessness, volatility, and amorality, if they gave him adaptability, repeatedly derailed his career and preclude him from being ranked, as he sought, with those who created and sustained the Irish state. In the end Haughey was less Prometheus than Faust.