Monday 5 December 2016

Kevin Myers: The fool and knave that was FitzHaughey

Published 20/07/2011 | 05:00

It is two months this week since Garret FitzGerald's death, a decent enough period for us now to revisit his political career, especially since it is precisely thirty years since he first became taoiseach.

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Garret FitzGerald's political life was in many ways defined by his primary adversary, Charles Haughey, who was easily the most unspeakable reptile to inhabit the zoo of Irish politics since Independence. It was FitzGerald's inability to damage Haughey which was his greatest and most astonishing failure. Haughey lived in sinful extravagance for decades. He had pilfered government money to set up the Provisional IRA.

He was conspicuously and unapologetically depraved. He bought an island with money that wasn't his, and was ferried to and fro in helicopters that he couldn't and didn't pay for. As Taoiseach, he created within his constituency an autonomous economy, wholly dependent on capital transfers from elsewhere. When the local Talbot car-assembly plant folded, he put the entire workforce on the public payroll. This wretched man was a sitting duck for a skilful politician; but FitzGerald barely landed a single meaningful blow.

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