Maureen Haughey, wife of one taoiseach, daughter of another, dies aged 91

Micheál Martin praises ‘patriot . . . whose life was steeped in cause of Irish republicanism’

Maureen Haughey with her husband Charles: The couple married in 1951  and had four children, Conor, Ciarán, Eimear and Seán.   Photograph: Peter Thursfield

Maureen Haughey with her husband Charles: The couple married in 1951 and had four children, Conor, Ciarán, Eimear and Seán. Photograph: Peter Thursfield

 

Maureen Haughey, wife of the late former taoiseach Charles Haughey, has died in Dublin aged 91.

Mrs Haughey died on Friday at the Mater Private Hospital, and her death was announced on Twitter by her son Seán, Fianna Fáil TD for Dublin Bay North.

“So sad to announce that my mother passed away peacefully this morning – a truly remarkable woman. May she rest in peace,” he wrote.

As well as the wife of a taoiseach and the mother of a TD and minister for state, Mrs Haughey was a daughter of another former taoiseach, Seán Lemass.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin issued a statement expressing his party’s “deepest sympathies to the Haughey and Lemass families”.

“Maureen was a wonderfully warm, dignified and intelligent woman,” he said.

“She was a tower of strength to her late husband, former taoiseach Charles Haughey, and loving daughter of former taoiseach Seán Lemass. Throughout her distinguished life she witnessed some of the major turning points in Irish history.”

Mr Martin said Mrs Haughey was a very active woman, who kept a keen interest in the evolution of Irish society.

“She was a patriot who loved her country and retained a key interest in the development of Irish society.”

He said: “Her life was steeped in the cause of Irish republicanism and her family contributed significantly to its advancement.”

Unassuming

Des Peelo, a former financial adviser to Charlie Haughey, said Mrs Haughey was “utterly unassuming” with “a lovely presence”.

Mrs Haughey was “extraordinarily well read” and very well versed in Irish history, he said.

“She was very supportive of Charlie. She was a staunch defender.”

“She had no airs and graces and was warm and intelligent,” he said. “She was a very private individual, entirely without malice.”

He added that she was fiercely protective of her husband and took great care of him in his later years when he was ill. She found the tribunals very difficult and very different from the “rough and tumble” of politics, which she could handle.

“She could see the effect the tribunals had on Charlie and looked after him.

“She was always there for Charlie.”

Mr Haughey was severely criticised by the Moriarty tribunal, which found that his acceptance of large amounts of money from businesspeople “devalued democracy”. After his disgrace, he agreed a €5 million settlement with the Revenue Commissioners. In 2003, with legal bills from the tribunals mounting, the Haugheys sold their north Dublin home and estate, Abbeville, though Mr Haughey continued to live there until his death. Mrs Haughey left Abbeville after his death.

Mr Peelo said that the couple had made their peace after the public revelation of a long-running affair with Terry Keane who, he said, had exaggerated the length of the affair. “It wasn’t a very active affair.”

Mrs Keane, the former social diarist for the Sunday Independent, revealed in 1999 what she had hinted at in her column for many years: that she had conducted a long-running affair with Charles Haughey while he was Fianna Fáil leader and taoiseach.

Embarrassment

Sen Haughey has previously said that he believed his mother must have known about the affair but was affected “by the sheer embarrassment of it” when it was finally confirmed. Mr Haughey, who died in 2006, never commented in public on the matter.

The Haugheys were married in 1951, and had four children, Conor, Ciarán, Eimear and Seán.

They had met at UCD in the 1940s, where they were contemporaries of Garret Fitzgerald, who would later go on to be Fine Gael leader and Mr Haughey’s chief political rival, and Joan O’Farrell, who married Mr Fitzgerald.

Yesterday, Mr Peelo said he always felt that Mrs Haughey was Mr Haughey’s greatest adviser, and that “if he was being an eejit she took him aside and told him”.

However, Seán Haughey previously told RTÉ that his mother did not play any role in advising his father on political matters.

“There was no kitchen cabinet in our house,” he told Marian Finucane in 2012.

“If she dared to express a view, she would be met with the stare people are familiar with.”

He said he had persuaded her to dictate her memoirs, which dealt with some political issues, but they were mostly about the family, and any publication would have to be with her agreement.

“There is a lot of curiosity about her. She has been a very private, loyal wife, with a great dignity about her, and it’s great to get it down on paper.”

Mrs Haughey’s mother, Kathleen Lemass, had played a similar role to his grandfather Seán Lemass, where she was the politician’s wife who supported her husband and “fed the canvassers”, Mr Haughey said.

Mrs Haughey is survived by her children and eight grandchildren. Her funeral will take place in Malahide on Tuesday.