Haughey's internal conflict left Ireland 'unDunne'

 

Newton's Optic:Haughey's career bordered on the ridiculous, and also the strangely familiar, finds Newton Emerson.

Charles Haughey was a "failed political entity", according to the final report from the Moriarty tribunal.

The former taoiseach was created shortly after the civil war by an act of union between Mr and Mrs Haughey of Castlebar, Co Mayo. He attended a Christian Brothers school where he was known by his Irish name of Charles Hurling, before qualifying as an accountant and a barrister.

Some believe this sowed the first seeds of the serious internal conflict that would later erupt when he began stealing money and breaking the law.

In 1951, Haughey acknowledged the political reality of his other half by marrying Seán Lemass's daughter. He entered politics six years later after finally achieving an election and immediately partitioned off some territory within Fianna Fáil to ensure an artificial majority.

However, this was not enough to prevent an outbreak of troubles involving guns, violence and failed attempts to share power.

Haughey eventually achieved formal recognition in 1979, when Ireland voted to drop Articles 1 to 50 of the Constitution and replace them with an acceptance that his status would never change unless he agreed to it.

Debts were written off, criminal activities were forgotten and all mention of an arms trial was gradually decommissioned. But the outward new appearance of stability masked fundamental structural weakness.

Due to the burden of his traditional yacht-buying industry, Haughey had become increasingly reliant on external subsidies. Despite regular inward investment by the private sector, only generous taxpayer support enabled him to live beyond his means.

After a series of governments fell in the 1980s, Irish people started to wonder if Haughey was simply too small and embittered to control his own affairs. Questions were raised over how he could maintain two relationships while opposing divorce, and also how one man could owe allegiance to two islands, especially when he had acquired the second under dubious circumstances.

In 1989, as part of a last-ditch effort to resolve the situation, Haughey was forced to share power with his lifelong enemies.

The Progressive Democrats were also from Fianna Fáil's historic territory and few outsiders could tell either faction apart. However, the compromise was too much for Haughey to stomach. In desperation he asked Brian Lenihan for a new stomach, but sadly no funds were available.

The power-sharing arrangement staggered on for a couple of years before disintegrating in acrimony over phone-tapping allegations. A "securocrat" scandal was only avoided because the term had not yet been invented.

The end, when it came, came quickly. After one last attempt to portray himself as merely European, Haughey conceded that his two halves would never be reconciled and quietly stepped down.

His final remarks were: "I have Dunne the state some service", although this has since been widely misprinted. Fianna Fáil embarked on an immediate programme of reunification with token autonomy for the Progressive Democrats during the transition period.

Historians differ over Haughey's long-term legacy.

"Many people feel that Haughey was a stage Ireland had to go through on the road to full nationhood," said Pat Answer, who lectures in bipolar post-colonialism at Dublin Sunday Business College.

"But we'll be debating his 60 years in public life for a long time. They truly were six occupied decades."