Haughey ‘vindictive’ and backed by thugs, former colleague says

Ex-Fianna Fáil TD and junior minister John O’Leary recalls former taoiseach in memoir


Former taoiseach Charles Haughey could be vindictive and many of his supporters were thugs, a former Fianna Fáil minister of state has claimed in his memoirs.

John O’Leary, who was a TD for Kerry South from 1966 to 1997, and a minister of state from 1977 to 1979, writes about events during the party’s brief term in government in 1982.

He says Mr Haughey was always worried about people plotting against him because his leadership was vulnerable.

“Some of Haughey’s supporters were an intimidating lot; they would appear in the Dáil bar late at night and many of them can only be described as thugs,’’ he writes.

Mr O’Leary says there was a fear among TDs that speaking out against Mr Haughey or any of his ministers, would mean “the heavies would hassle you and that you would be ignored when it came to any promotional opportunities’’.

He adds that “Haughey was a vindictive man like that’’.

Mr O’Leary was elected to the Dáil in a byelection in Kerry South in 1966. He served with Mr Haughey on the Fianna Fáil front bench in 1975, when the then party leader Jack Lynch, who had sacked Mr Haughey as a minister during the arms crisis of 1970, restored him to political prominence.

Mr Lynch appointed Mr O’Leary to a junior ministerial post when Fianna Fáil returned to power in 1977, but he was dropped by Mr Haughey when he replaced Mr Lynch in 1979.

Mr O’Leary had voted for George Colley in the leadership contest.

His book, On The Doorsteps, Memoirs of a long-serving TD, will be published later this week. It contains a foreword by former taoiseach Brian Cowen who will launch it in Killarney next month.

Mr O’Leary writes that despite Fianna Fáil’s return to power in 1982, he was depressed about the state of the party.

“There was a horrible atmosphere in the parliamentary party at the time, as the divisions of the previous years between the pro-Haughey and anti-Haughey factions remained,’’ he adds.

He describes Mr Haughey as “incredibly paranoid’’ at the time, adding that the media was starting to take more interest in his personal finances.

The publication of The Boss, by Peter Murtagh and Joe Joyce, “really angered him when it revealed what was going on behind the scenes in government’’, Mr O’Leary adds.