MARCH 10th, 1982: Bitter mood in Dáil as Haughey declared taoiseach


FROM THE ARCHIVES: The second election of Charles Haughey as taoiseach came with the help of the newly elected Independent TD for Dublin Central Tony Gregory and a controversial deal to develop the docklands area around what became the IFSC. Olivia O’Leary described the mood in the Dáil at the start of a short-lived and highly controversial Fianna Fáil government.

TONY GREGORY knelt up on his bench, one black and white sneaker cocked to the chamber below, chatting easily to Joe Sherlock of Sinn Féin the Workers’ Party. A glass of water in one hand, his air was as casual as his open-necked shirt. And why not? He’d already got what he came for.

All around the deputies in their well-cut suits and silk ties and pretty hats watched him bemusedly. They might all live and die in politics without ever pulling off a deal like that for a deprived constituency. One might well ask where the money, estimated at £80 million for this year, is going to come from. But that’s Charlie Haughey’s question, not Tony Gregory’s. And whatever about the motive behind the making of the deal, it has a little more social justice going for it than Knock airport.

“Gregory put it starkly,” said a resigned Fine Gaeler leaving the House after Haughey had won his leadership vote. “Of course Garret couldn’t make an unprovided for promise like that. Of course Garret was more pessimistic about Gregory’s demand, of course he didn’t make an offer approximating to Haughey’s. We don’t want power at that price.”

They all made their apologies.

Joe Sherlock explained why Sinn Féin the Workers’ Party was voting for Haughey – his budget best served the interests of the working-class, his Government would be more stable.

As for the North, were there worries about the North? Well, Joe had reassurance for the people of the North and he delivered it with a sudden pitch of volume loud enough to reach the Shankill Road. Sinn Féin the Workers’ Party policy was not to coerce them into a united Ireland, declared Joe loudly.

When the vote was called, the Sinn Féin the Workers’ Party men got locked out. They had been downstairs. They were late. That was when Mark Killilea, ousted in Galway by the [Bobby] Molloy machine, did his good turn for the party. “Into the press gallery with you Joe, and bring those other fellas with you,” said Mark, describing the scene to us afterwards. “I caught ’em by the seat of the trousers and pushed ’em towards the press area.”

They did, scrambling over journalists; into the distinguished visitors’ gallery, clambered over Eimear and Maureen Haughey and down into the chamber. As Michael O’Leary said in an acid little speech later about the new left-wing deputies: “Their method of entry to the House was somewhat unorthodox. But their eagerness cannot be in doubt.”

As the Independents declared against them, the coalition benches laughed bitterly. The Fianna Fáilers clapped. The galleries erupted with yells and cheers as Haughey’s victory was announced. Minutes before, knowing the score, Garret FitzGerald had gone over to shake his hand, FitzGerald looking drained and a little sheepish, Haughey accepting with a warm smile and a hand on the arm.

Dublin would be looked after in the interests of the nation, declared Charlie Haughey stoutly as the Opposition grinned and looked at Tony Gregory. The West didn’t get a mention this time round.