Haughey blamed for sex smear against Hillery
Published 13/12/2008 | 00:00
Charlie Haughey was more than likely the source of a sex smear which almost destroyed the presidency of the late Patrick Hillery, a new book sensationally claims. Rumours about Hillery, pictured left with his wife Maeve, linked him with one or possibly two mistresses. The claims are made in a biography of the late president.
Hillery convinced former Taoiseach waged campaign to further own agenda
A new book blames Charlie Haughey for the sex scandal rumours which almost destroyed the Presidency of the late Patrick Hillery in 1979.
It also claims Mr Haughey was the orchestrator of the frenzied series of phone calls made to Mr Hillery at Aras an Uachtarain on the night the Garret FitzGerald government fell in January 1982 and Mr Haughey was attempting to replace Mr FitzGerald as Taoiseach without having an election.
The full details of what happened in these two controversial episodes are revealed in a 600-page authorised biography of Mr Hillery which will be published next Wednesday.
Trinity College historian Dr John Walsh, who wrote the book, had full access to Mr Hillery's private papers and also conducted extensive interviews with the former President.
The book provides damning evidence of how ruthless Mr Haughey was at the time and how he was willing to do anything to achieve power.
The rumours about Mr Hillery's love life had circulated for months in 1979. Mr Hillery was by then President, but the rumours referred to his time as Ireland's Commissioner in Brussels and suggested that he had had an affair with one, or possibly two, women while he was there.
The stories even suggested that he had one of these women visit him at the Aras.
These rumours went on for months in 1979, in the run-up to the Papal visit here. They were so persistent and pervasive that the then Taoiseach Jack Lynch advised Mr Hillery that he had to deal with the situation.
This culminated in the editors of the national newspapers and the head of news in RTE being summoned to the Aras, where Mr Hillery insisted that the rumours were completely false and that he would not be resigning. The sensational story was national news.
Where the rumours were coming from was a mystery at the time, but the book suggests that it was Mr Haughey who was the most likely source.
He did it, the book suggests, because he wanted Mr Hillery to resign and Mr Lynch to succeed him as President, thereby clearing the way for Mr Haughey to become Taoiseach. There may also have been an element of payback for Mr Hillery's strong support for Mr Lynch during the Arms Crisis.
In the book, Mr Hillery explains that when Mr Haughey became Taoiseach, and came up to the Aras, he raised the subject of the rumours and to Mr Hillery's amazement said: "It is all over now."
The book says Mr Hillery "became convinced Haughey had orchestrated the campaign (of rumours) through the media to further his own agenda".
Revelations in the book about Mr Haughey's behaviour on the night of the phone calls to the Aras are just as damning of Mr Haughey's character. This happened on the night of January 27, 1982, after the FitzGerald government had collapsed.
Mr Haughey knew the President had the power to refuse to dissolve the Dail and that an alternative government could be formed from within the Dail without a general election. He saw this as a way of becoming Taoiseach again and he and his supporters made numerous phone calls to the Aras that night to convince Mr Hillery to play along.
This was the series of phone calls which 10 years later caused the presidential campaign of Brian Lenihan to implode when he first denied them and then "on mature reflection" remembered them.
The book reveals for the first time exactly who made the calls and how enraged Mr Haughey became when Mr Hillery would not come to the phone. In one call, the message was that Mr Haughey was the leader of the biggest party in the Dail and that he was going up to the Aras personally at 10.30pm to see the President. When Mr Hillery heard this, the book says, he issued an instruction to "bar the gates" to the Aras.
Later, when Mr Haughey did become Taoiseach after an election was held and came up to the Aras, Mr Hillery says that "he referred to the phone calls before the dissolution as 'that nonsense' and moved his hand as if he were throwing away a piece of paper".
'Patrick Hillery -- The Authorised Biography' by John Walsh will be published next Wednesday by New Island Books