Thursday 22 November 2018

Charlie Haughey: an 'unhelpful, negative presence'

Charlie Haughey at his home, Abbeville.
Charlie Haughey at his home, Abbeville.

Shane Hickey

Unconstructive, unhelpful and wallowing in the negativity that comes with not being in charge. That was part of a pen picture of Charlie Haughey while in opposition, one that presented the Fianna Fail leader of the day as an uncooperative troublemaker more than willing to attack the sitting government.

Alan Goodison, the British ambassador in Dublin in the run-up to the Anglo-Irish Agreement, drew up the profile of Haughey following a meeting in May 1985 between the two men.

The former taoiseach appeared happy to snipe from the sidelines at the government, while at the same time not putting forward any fresh or concrete ideas of his own on how to dig the country out of economic turmoil.

"I asked him about the domestic situation. He quoted Confucius (I think he meant Lucretius) to the effect that there is always something agreeable in watching the suffering of others. That is, in his case, the coalition government," wrote Goodison.

"He seemed to be looking for some miracle to save Ireland from her economic difficulties. Meanwhile, he was content to let the government bear responsibility."

What Ireland needed, said Haughey, was an economic guru who could lead the country in the right direction. Suggestions of whom that could be were unforthcoming.

"He put forward no positive and realistic ideas, and, although he would clearly prefer power, he obviously enjoys the negative role of a leader of the opposition," said Goodison.

"There was no suggestion that he intended to be constructive or helpful in any way in his approach to an Anglo-Irish Agreement. Whether we succeed in achieving one or fail he will certainly relish the opportunity of attempting to destroy Dr (Garret) FitzGerald."

Discussing fears that there was a defence element to the Anglo-Irish talks, Haughey said he accepted that British strategists did not see Ireland as significant.

"He said that this would not prevent him from talking about the threat to Irish neutrality in public," wrote Mr Goodison of the "cordial" Haughey. While Haughey would be very much opposed to any Anglo-Irish Agreement, Mr Goodison said that if he came to power with it in place, he would possibly try to renegotiate it to show that he could do better than Mr FitzGerald.

Irish Independent

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