independent

Monday 21 April 2014

Charlie Haughey's lavish life on 'The Inis' uncovered

French President Francois Mitterrand with Charles and Maureen Haughey and other members of the Haughey family during his 1988 visit to Inishvickillane

CHARLES Haughey had a replica of an ancient Ogham stone made and transported to his island retreat – all at the expense of the taxpayer.

New insights into the lavish lifestyle of Mr Haughey, who bought Inishvickillane, one of the Blasket Islands, for £25,000 in 1974, have been revealed in his private papers that were donated to the Blasket Island Centre in Dun Chaoin, Co Kerry, two years ago by the Haughey family.

They include handwritten notes, letters, photographs, newspaper cuttings and files chronicling almost four decades on what Mr Haughey lovingly called "The Inis".

The contents of the trove have been examined by political writer and journalist Owen O'Shea, who has uncovered new insights into the controversial politician.

Mr Haughey used to be inundated with requests to visit the island, most of which he politely turned down. However, exceptions were made, including for former French president Francois Mitterrand, in whose honour a French flag was erected on the island when he was a guest in 1988.

A file labelled "French President on Island" includes photographs of the visit to Inishvickillane.

The former Taoiseach was so protective of his privacy that he even wrote to Justice Minister Michael Noonan in November 1985 about his concerns over the number of planes flying over Inishvickillane, fearing he may be under surveillance.

Correspondence from the minister found amongst his papers suggests his concerns were taken seriously enough for Mr Noonan to have made inquiries.

Request

He reassured Mr Haughey: "On the basis of enquiries that the gardai have made, I think you can feel confident that recent flights in the vicinity of Inishvickillane are not a cause for concern."

A visit to Trinity College, the date of which is not recorded, caused panic among staff when he requested to see the Ogham stone – a rock inscribed with the earliest written form of Irish – that had been taken from the island.

"This simple request caused consternation because apparently the stone, despite Lord Cork's (the previous owner of the island) arrogant condescension, had been discarded to some basement. However, it was discovered and produced," Mr Haughey wrote.

Notes, including many in his own hand, detail how a replica fibreglass copy of the 350AD stone's back was made for him and returned to the island, with the National Museum covering the cost, although he doesn't record what this was.

The controversy led to Dail questions about how public money was used to fund this for "a private individual".

Other correspondence reveals he was ahead of his time and in the 1980s was exploring alternative energy sources including wind and wave.

Among the more unusual items is the logbook of a German fighter plane, bearing the Third Reich stamp, that was forced to make an emergency landing off the Blaskets during World War Two.

Mr Haughey met up with the captain, Willi Krupp, in Berlin and invited him to visit the Inis, which he did in 1982.

Mr O'Shea, who has devoted a lot of time to researching the 'Haughey Papers', said the island would not have had the profile it now has were it not for Mr Haughey's attachment.

A selection from the 'Haughey Papers' is on display at the Blasket Centre in Dun Chaoin and the entire collection can be viewed by appointment.

Irish Independent

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