Tuesday 23 May 2017

The night Haughey was out for the count

Charlie Haughey rests in his hospital bed following the head-on car crash in Limerick in
1976. His sons, Sean and Ciaran, and a friend were in the car at the time
Charlie Haughey rests in his hospital bed following the head-on car crash in Limerick in 1976. His sons, Sean and Ciaran, and a friend were in the car at the time
Haughey delivering a speech in the mid-1970s

Barry Duggan

HIS head and face are scarred and bruised. Tape holds an eye patch and cotton wool over wounds and he is completely out for the count following a head-on collision between his taxi and an oncoming van.

But there is no mistaking who it is.

Charlie Haughey was 51 and slowly rebuilding his powerbase within Fianna Fail after the Arms Trial when a trip to Inishvickillane almost ended in tragedy for the future Taoiseach.

Foggy weather on July 6, 1976 forced a private jet -- hired by Haughey and destined for Farranfore in Co Kerry -- to divert to Shannon.

Haughey's teenage sons Sean and Ciaran were travelling with him.

"I was 14. Ciaran was 16. Graham Turley, who went on to marry Veronica Guerin, was also with us," Sean told the Irish Independent yesterday.

The four were en route to Haughey's private island of Inishvickillane to bring provisions ahead of the summer holidays planned for August.

"The weather was very bad. Iona Airways was the charter airline then, but there was fog over Kerry, so we landed in Shannon," said Sean.

But their lift was in Farranfore. So the Fianna Fail health spokesman and three teens had little option but to get a taxi to Kerry from Shannon.

"It was around Patrickswell where it happened. Myself, Ciaran and Graham were in the back and my father was in the front passenger seat," Sean said.

"The taxi driver was overtaking another car and there was a head-on crash. We crashed straight into a van. There was a man and two children in the front of the van. We were all taken to hospital, but only my father was kept in there.

"He had surgery. He had superficial cuts and was there for a few days. When he came to, a nurse called Mary Murphy who now lives in Kerry was there."

"She said, 'Mr Haughey, I am your first cousin.' He had family taking care of him."

Sean said his father, who died in 2006, had a couple of close calls when it came to travel accidents.

"In the 1960s, he was in a serious car accident in Wexford. Another time in the 1980s, his plane crash-landed at Kerry airport -- the wheel burst during the landing."

"In the mid-1980s, his boat sank off Mizen Head. It hit rocks I think. He definitely had nine lives," he said.

Haughey was photographed by Dermot Lynch who was working for the 'Limerick Leader'.

Irish Independent

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