Monday 20 November 2017

Haughey's close confidante and island caretaker dies

Charles Haughey pictured aboard his boat 'The Celtic Mist
Charles Haughey pictured aboard his boat 'The Celtic Mist

Owen O'Shea

Charles Haughey paid a final emotional visit to his beloved west Kerry island, Inisvickillane, just weeks before he died, in the company of his close friend and confidante Tom Fitzgerald, who died on Friday.

The former Dingle senator, ever-present at Mr Haughey's side throughout his career, revealed just a month ago how they travelled together to the island off the Kerry coast.

"I don't think I will see the island again, Tom," he told Mr Fitzgerald as he sat by the fire in the island home in April 2006. "He had the eyes closed, asking about the fishing community and people he knew. I spoke to him about what was in the papers about him and he dismissed it."

Mr Fitzgerald, who had been instrumental in building Mr Haughey's house on the 'Inis', was also its unofficial caretaker and was summoned to the island whenever Mr Haughey visited. "The health was gone and because of the publicity he couldn't go anywhere. But he was always quite safe and happy in Dingle," Mr Fitzgerald said.

On leaving Mr Haughey, Mr Fitzgerald realised he might never see his friend again. He went on a planned trip to Medjugorje with his wife. "Bring me back something," the ailing former Taoiseach told him.

A week later, Eimear Haughey phoned Mr Fitzgerald with the news that Charlie had died. Mr Fitzgerald rushed from Dingle to Kinsealy but didn't forget the rosary beads he had brought from Medjugorje.

"He was laid out in the house and I said to Eimear about the rosary beads and straight away she put them around his fingers."

After the funeral, Mr Fitzgerald was asked by Maureen Haughey to visit Inisvickillane once more. "'This will be my last visit, Tom,' she said. I went out with her and the family in the helicopter. And I thought then any one of the two of us won't be seeing it again."

Mr Fitzgerald said he never heard Mr Haughey speak ill of another politician bar one.

"Dick Spring, when he said something in the Dail about Charlie being a cancer in Irish politics. 'And Tom,' he said, 'How could he say that? Do you know what a cancer is? Something that eats and eats away. The dirty f**ker.' The only one I ever heard him say a word against. It was the use of the word cancer that did it."

Mr Fitzgerald credited Mr Haughey for helping to put Dingle on the map through his regular visits, not least to the annual Dingle Regatta.

Mr Fitzgerald, who will be laid to rest in Dingle this morning, is survived by his wife Bridie, daughter Michelle, sons Tommy and Breandan, brother Paudie, sister Joan and grandchildren.

Owen O'Shea is a freelance journalist and political writer based in Co Kerry

Irish Independent

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