Saturday 24 August 2019

How Charlie was financed 'for Ireland'

Miriam Donohoe

An extract from Lenihan's book details the bizarre notion of a group of businessmen that paying for Haughey's lifestyle was an act of patriotism

Much of Haughey's appeal depended on the notion that he himself was a wealthy, ambitious man who could also bring wealth and success to the country itself. In a way, he was seen in this opening phase of his career to be a man with a sort of Midas touch and tremendous business acumen.

Prior to his death, I spoke to Patrick Gallagher about the Haughey mystique. He claimed to me that he and other successful businessmen had supported Haughey in his lifestyle out of a belief that Ireland, as a post-colonial country, required an icon of sorts.

Haughey, he said, was put both metaphorically and physically in the saddle of the horse in order that he could live this life, that in a previous era, could only be enjoyed by the Anglo-Irish aristocracy of old.

Gallagher and others felt that the only way Ireland could be truly independent and confident was if the people could see that the native Irish were now clearly in charge.

It was a somewhat preposterous boast on Gallagher's part, but a belief I myself witnessed as a regular feature amongst those who gave money to Haughey.

Over the years, in particular since the Tribunal, I have come across many individual businesspeople who have confessed with great pride and humour the enjoyment they got from visits to Haughey's Kinsealy home. It seems that contributing to Haughey's lifestyle, for some at least, was confirmatory of their insider status.

The irony is, of course, that the country was in a bleak space when Haughey was in office in the 1980s.

The source of Haughey's apparent fortune was an issue from the day he began in public life. It featured in the 1960s, the 1970s, the 1980s and again, to his ultimate cost in the 1990s. The laws of libel, cautious or deferential journalism, and fear on the part of the banks lending him the money to support his lifestyle, were the main reasons why little if nothing emerged on this front while he was actively engaged in public life.

Patrick Gallagher had been very open over the years about his and his father's sponsorship of Haughey. It is clear Haughey's first fortune came because of the foresight of the Gallaghers in spotting a property that would eventually be changed for housing and tipping their friend off to buy it so they could then, later, buy it off him. This sale clearly allowed Haughey to live way beyond his paltry income up to the 1970s.

Presumably, when he lost his ministerial job as a result of the Arms Trial, his income went down but his outgoings went up. He was travelling the country, clawing his way back to power, and to outward appearances there had been no change in his financial circumstances. When Haughey became Taoiseach in 1979 a huge overdraft had built up, over a million pounds. Patrick Gallagher stepped in again and helped to reduce the indebtedness, with security taken against Haughey's newest and most valuable asset, Abbeville in Kinsealy. This turned out to be a figment, not enforceable in law. This allowed Haughey to borrow against the property in the future if he needed to.

His work done for Haughey, Patrick Gallagher then went bankrupt in his own business and was no longer in a position to continue the family role of long-term support to Haughey.

The settlement with AIB in 1979, with Gallagher's assistance, allowed Haughey to go on again with his high-maintenance lifestyle, and that appears to have lasted until he was again under pressure from the bank, this time around when he became Taoiseach again in 1987 and for his final period as Taoiseach.

On this occasion Ben Dunne stepped in to finance his difficulties, with Haughey using the now immortal words, on receipt of the donated bank drafts, "thanks a million, big fella". One of the mistakes Haughey appears to have made in his dealings with this money from Dunne was to allow his fear of public disclosure to prevail.

Sunday Independent

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