Smurfit never spoke to Haughey again after Telecom affair

“I just cut people who do me a bad turn out of my life”

Dr Michael Smurfit never spoke to former taoiseach Charlie Haughey again after he said he should “step aside” in 1991 as chairman of Telecom Éireann

Dr Michael Smurfit never spoke to former taoiseach Charlie Haughey again after he said he should “step aside” in 1991 as chairman of Telecom Éireann

 

Dr Michael Smurfit never spoke to former taoiseach Charlie Haughey again after he said he should “step aside” in 1991 as chairman of Telecom Éireann pending an investigation into untrue allegations that the businessman had secretly benefited from a land deal involving the semi-State in Ballsbridge.

In his autobiography A Life Worth Living , he says of Haughey: “I make a great friend, but I don’t make a good enemy. I’m not a vindictive person, I just cut people who do me a bad turn out of my life and have nothing more to do with them.”

Up until then Dr Smurfit had dinner with Haughey at least twice a year, he said.

Dr Smurfit told The Irish Times in an interview in his home in Monaco that money and power were “very much intermingled” in Ireland for many years.

He believes now: “The culture has changed. The country has matured. It has been clearly decided that this form of crony capitalism doesn’t work.”

However, Dr Smurfit said he believed the methodology and findings of the Moriarty tribunal into payments to politicians were “extremely flawed”.

“A finding is considered to be de rigueur law but it is not. It is one man’s opinion of what he thinks has happened,” he said.

Dr Smurfit also said today’s entrepreneurs needed to be prepared to take risks to bring economic recovery.

“What is going to take Ireland out of its current situation? A spate of new entrepreneurs ... to replace the ageing Dermot Desmonds and the Denis O’Briens and the Michael Smurfits.”

“There are 10 at my age, maybe a hundred of them, but we need a thousand guys for the next wave of entrepreneurs in the country to be successful.”

Dr Smurfit also said what he believed was the secret of business success.

“No soft executive gets successful. An executive like Steve Jobs has to be by the very nature of his position very firm, a committed person. Would you call it tough? Or you call it dictatorial or dogmatic? These are all words that are central to being a successful chief executive.”

In his newly published autobiography, Dr Smurfit reveals how in 1985 as the leader of the Jefferson Smurfit Group, in one deal alone he turned $10 million in cash upfront into billions for his company.