Haughey yacht in Tall Ships race as whale and dolphin group take it over


CELTIC MIST, the yacht owned by the late Charles J Haughey, is to become the only Irish entry in this year’s Tall Ships race from Waterford.

The 52ft ketch has been entered in the first leg of the race by the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group. Dr Simon Berrow confirmed yesterday that the group had decided to accept the offer made by the Haughey family to take ownership of the yacht for whale and dolphin research.

Mr Haughey’s son Conor told this newspaper last April that the whale and dolphin group had been invited to take it over, as the organisation’s work was close to his father’s heart. Mr Haughey declared Irish waters as a whale and dolphin sanctuary in 1991.

However, the group had to canvass the views of its members and undertake a survey of the vessel, which had been on sale for €175,000 in the Isle of Wight in southern England since last year.

“It was a very generous offer from the Haughey family, but the IWDG had to explore the condition and feasibility of running such a large vessel,” Dr Berrow said yesterday.

“We commissioned a number of independent surveys and have thoroughly inspected the yacht and are happy it is in good sea-worthy condition and has been well maintained.”

Conor Haughey is expected to accompany Fiacc Ó Brolcháin for the whale and dolphin group on the delivery run to the Waterford coast in time for the Tall Ships race, which starts at the end of this month.

The last time Waterford hosted the race start, three Irish vessels represented the State in the sail past down the estuary to Dunmore East – the Asgard II, the Jeanie Johnstonand the Dunbrody.The State sail training brigantine Asgard II sank off the French coast in 2008, while neither of the other tall ships has been entered.

The Celtic Mistis expected to sail the first leg to Greenock in Scotland, and will then return to the group’s base in Kilrush, Co Clare. There it will be refitted with extra berths and equipped with whale and dolphin research equipment, Dr Berrow said. Shannon Development, he added, was sponsoring a berth at the Kilrush Creek marina for the yacht.

Celtic Mistwill be used for training whale and dolphin members in species identification and training in surveying and recording cetaceans, Dr Berrow added.

The yacht was bought by Mr Haughey after his previous yacht ran up on rocks off Mizen Head, west Cork. It spent much time in Dingle, Co Kerry, and on Mr Haughey’s Blasket island of Inishvickillane, nine miles off the Kerry coast.

During the Moriarty tribunal proceedings in 1990s, it emerged that businessman Dermot Desmond paid some €75,000 for refurbishment of the Celtic Mist.

The total sum exceeded Mr Haughey’s then salary as taoiseach, and the tribunal did not accept Mr Desmond’s evidence that the payments were loans.