June 30th, 1984
FROM THE ARCHIVES:The personal antipathy between the Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael leaders, Charles Haughey and Garret FitzGerald, in the 1980s sometimes broke through the surface of politics, as in this adjournment debate reported by Denis Coghlan.
A personality clash of a virulence not seen since 1979 took place in the Dáil yesterday when the Taoiseach, Dr FitzGerald, suggested that the Fianna Fáil leader, Mr Haughey, was unfit to lead the country because of a lack of political integrity.
In turn the deputy leader of Fianna Fáil, Mr Brian Lenihan, accused Dr FitzGerald of launching a vindictive attack on Mr Haughey and of lowering the standards of the Dáil.
The Fianna Fáil leader said the Coalition Government was “locked in neutral gear, and incapable of moving forward”.
Mr Lenihan compared the flavour of the debate to the “flawed pedigree” speech made by Dr FitzGerald on the appointment of Mr Haughey as Taoiseach in 1979, and said it displayed “the kind of venomous underhand politics . . . alien to our character”.
The Taoiseach accused Mr Haughey of having made reckless and false promises in the past, and said the public required of its politicians “fundamental political quality of integrity . . . by political personnel whom they can trust”.
He recalled that last December Mr Haughey had attacked him for being “virtuous”.
“He is well aware that no more that anyone else in the rough and tumble of politics do I claim any special quality of virtue.
“I have sought simply to maintain the normal standards to which our people have become accustomed in its politicians since the early days of the State when governments were headed by men of the stature of WT Cosgrave and de Valera, O’Higgins and MacEntee, Costello and Lemass, Liam Cosgrave and Jack Lynch.”
Dr Fitzgerald said that those men had differed deeply but they pursued the good of the State as their sole aim. In so acting they neither claimed virtue for themselves nor used the word as a term of denigration of others.
Those in positions of leadership in the political parties, he said, must never betray the trust imposed on them by “putting ourselves before party, or party before the State”.
There was also a duty to face up to the realities of the economic problems facing the country, and “not to seek to diminish their significance or to suggest that they may be overcome more easily than is in reality the case”.
Mr Haughey replied that “on an occasion like this, the Taoiseach can never resist attacking me personally, Fianna Fáil and everything in sight except his own performance”.
The Fianna Fáil leader reserved his fire for the Government Information Service under Dr FitzGerald, and said it had been “turned into a marketing and public relations organisation, whose sole function is to promote a favourable image of the Taoiseach, the Government and to sell their policies”.