Ex-attorney general in Gubu case dies

Patrick Connolly resigned over Macarthur controversy in 1982

Patrick Connolly, attorney general during the time of the Malcolm Macarthur murder case.

Patrick Connolly, attorney general during the time of the Malcolm Macarthur murder case.

 

Former attorney general Patrick Connolly, who has died at his home in Dalkey, was a central figure in one of the most extraordinary events to impinge on Irish political life.

In summer 1982 the country’s most wanted man, murder suspect Malcolm Macarthur, was arrested in Connolly’s apartment in Dalkey. The arrest created a sensation, compounded when Connolly left the country for a planned holiday in the United States.

Then taoiseach Charles Haughey, who was already at the centre of a number of controversies, was plunged into a fresh crisis with all sorts of rumour and innuendo developing from Macarthur’s arrest at the attorney general’s home. At a press conference, Haughey described the sequence of events leading to Macarthur’s arrest as “grotesque, unbelievable, bizarre and unprecedented”.

That prompted Haughey’s fiercest critic Conor Cruise O’Brien to coin the term “Gubu” to describe him and his government.

Innocent

Connolly was an innocent party in the affair but it took some time for that to become clear as the media and public were caught up in a frenzy of speculation. Rumours of a high-level cover-up gained credence when it emerged that a few weeks before his arrest Macarthur had been taken as Connolly’s guest to Croke Park for an All- Ireland semi-final. Not only that but the two of them had sat in the ardcomhairle box beside the Garda commissioner and a number of other dignitaries.

Failing to appreciate the seriousness of the situation after the arrest of Macarthur, Connolly flew to New York but was met by a posse of television cameras at JFK International airport.

Some elements of the US media entertained the notion that Connolly was fleeing justice and he returned home to clarify the situation.

As the Garda investigation into the Macarthur murders continued, it became clear that Connolly was an innocent party who had simply provided Macarthur with accommodation at the request of a mutual friend.

However, he resigned the post of attorney general and he returned to the bar where he was welcomed back by colleagues who had great sympathy for his predicament.

Beleaguered

The episode had a deeply damaging impact on the already-beleaguered Haughey government which lurched from one crisis to the next in 1982.

Just two months after Connolly’s resignation Charlie McCreevy launched an abortive heave to remove Haughey from office. Haughey survived but his government lost its Dáil majority shortly afterwards and he was forced to call an election in November 1982, which he lost.

Three years ago the release of government papers for 1982 under the 30-year rule cast Connolly in a new light when it emerged that as attorney general he had advised Haughey against accepting the wording of the pro-life amendment to the Constitution that was ultimately adopted.

Connolly, who was in his 80s, served as attorney general from March to August 1982.

He will be reposing today, in Quinn’s of Glasthule from 5pm-7pm. Removal will take place tomorrow to the Church of the Assumption, Dalkey, arriving at 9.50am for 10am funeral Mass followed by burial in Deans Grange Cemetery.