Haughey’s poetry among musings on family-created website

Poems discovered in Charles Haughey’s private papers after he died aged 80 in 2006

Seán Haughey TD with his laptop showing the website the former taoiseach's family has created – charlesjhaughey.ie. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Seán Haughey TD with his laptop showing the website the former taoiseach's family has created – charlesjhaughey.ie. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

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Former Fianna Fáil leaders have had different interests in the years after power, but Charles Haughey’s unknown poetic side has remained a secret.

A recently revamped and extended version of the Haughey family-created charlesjhaughey.ie now includes texts found after the politician’s death more than a decade ago.

In a poem entitled Abbeville Trees he describes the scene in the grounds of his imposing 18th-century residence at Kinsealy, in north Dublin: “I planted trees/And watched them grow/Here in Abbeville/Their budding branches ushering in/The yearly miracle of spring.” The poem concludes: “Mountain ash and weeping larch,/Conquering chestnuts, sturdy birch/Here they stand, lords of the land,/The countryside belongs to them.”

Another entitled Afterrain (all one word) describes the aftermath of a summer shower: “As the pattern of rain dies away/A general hush descends/Everything is muted; as if the following rain/Had spread its own mantle of silence over everything.”

Then a robin or blackbird emerges from the foliage: “And it is time for all the normal sounds/Of nature, birdsong, the cawing of rooks,/The creaking of branches, to start up again”. The poem concludes: “The Afterrain is over.”

Fianna Fáil TD for Dublin Bay North, Seán Haughey, a son of the former taoiseach, says the poems were discovered in his father’s private papers after he died aged 80 in 2006: “Most of the stuff was written after he retired, I would have thought.”

The website includes an official coat of arms “designed and registered” by Haughey himself, says his son, “There’s a horse in it, at the top: apparently an Irish translation of ‘Haughey’ could be ‘horseman’.”

An animal on the left, holding a sword, reflects Haughey’s time as an Army officer, while a deer on the right, holding a bundle of rods and an axe, symbolises politics and law. “The most significant thing about it is the Latin at the bottom, marte nostro, and that means ‘by our own efforts’,” says Seán Haughey.

The website also features Haughey’s “musings in a little notebook found in his private papers”, including some on politics, such as: “In a group or committee, people rarely give their real reason for opposing a proposal,” and “Never go to the brink, you might be pushed over by a ‘friend’.”

One of the website’s many photographs shows Haughey meeting the Soviet Union’s last leader, Mikhail Gorbachev: “He changed the world totally and for the better,” wrote the former taoiseach.

In another, Haughey is talking to Margaret Thatcher, and there are pictures, too, with Fianna Fáil colleagues such as Albert Reynolds, Bertie Ahern, Ray MacSharry, Mary O’Rourke and Ben Briscoe.

A section on his wife, Maureen Haughey (née Lemass, 1925-2017), says she “played a key supporting role in Charlie’s political life”. She was also “an accomplished horsewoman” and “enjoyed nothing better than to sing along to a good old-fashioned rebel song”.

Charles Haughey on his horse outside Abbeville. Photograph: Jacqueline O’Brien
Charles Haughey on his horse outside Abbeville. Photograph: Jacqueline O’Brien

Numerous articles are included on Haughey’s political career. Some are bylined as “Written by Haughey family”, including one that defends their father’s role in the 1970 Arms Crisis.

“What is now established beyond doubt is that the plan to import arms had the approval of the government, including taoiseach Jack Lynch and the minister for defence Jim Gibbons. The Defence Forces had organised for the arms to be stored in a monastery in Co Cavan and they were only to be used to defend Northern nationalists in the event of another pogrom or a doomsday situation,” it reads.

Another remembers Haughey’s introduction of the Free Travel Scheme for older people when he was minister for finance in the late 1960s, against the advice of senior civil servants.

“It was particularly moving for his family to observe elderly mourners proudly holding up high their bus passes as his funeral cortege made its way out to St Fintan’s cemetery in Sutton.”

An article by Dr Martin Mansergh, who was his special adviser on Northern Ireland, states that Haughey was “centrally involved in the beginnings of the peace process”. The article continues: “While a direct meeting with the leader of Sinn Féin along with John Hume did not prove feasible, he authorised a small party delegation to meet with Sinn Féin in 1988 to see if an alternative political strategy to the armed campaign was possible.”

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