If I saw Mr Haughey buried at midnight at a crossroads, with a stake driven through his heart -- politically speaking -- I should continue to wear a clove of garlic around my neck, just in case.
-- Conor Cruise O'Brien
Charles J. Haughey (1925 - 2006) is one of the most controversial figures in the modern history of the Republic of Ireland. Leader of the Fianna Fáil party throughout the eighties and early nineties, he was Taoiseach for a number of periods during this time. He took over the leadership of Fianna Fail from Jack Lynch, and was eventually replaced by Albert Reynolds.
Haughey was progressive in many areas, and some of his achievements as Taoiseach, and in the various ministerial posts he held since the sixties, are still regarded very favourably. These include: the extension of free travel to all senior citizens, the introduction of tax-free status for creative artists, and the grand-scale renovation of Government Buildings.
However, none of these achievements is likely to eclipse his much more significant record in political villainy and corruption. The first major controversy to involve Haughey was the Arms Trial of 1970. Haughey, then a minister in Jack Lynch's cabinet, was accused of conspiring to import guns into the country to be used by the IRA (this was at the outset of the Troubles). Haughey was forced to resign as a minister, but was later acquitted in court.
Scandals of lesser consequence were a regular feature of Haughey's subsequent political career, but he managed to survive each one without being directly implicated. For example, in 1982 it emerged that certain journalists' telephones were being tapped by the state. There was no reasonable justification for this action, and the nation was predictably outraged. However, Haughey denied all knowledge of the affair, and the fall was taken by Sean Doherty, the Minister for Justice. However, this scandal was to eventually topple Haughey in 1992, when Doherty admitted that he had been covering for Haughey, who had not only known about the wire-tapping, but had in fact authorised it.
This ended his political career, and he resigned as Taoiseach and leader of Fianna Fail. Owning a Georgian mansion in Dublin, a large stud farm, and a private island off the coast of Kerry, Haughey apparently had little to worry him as he began his retirement. However, a complex series of events were to seriously disrupt this, and lay his many misdeeds out in the open. The supermarket baron, Ben Dunne, as part of his court battle to retain control of the Dunnes Stores chain, revealed that he had paid massive sums of money to politicians. The two politicians identified were Michael Lowry and Charles Haughey.
A tribunal (the McCracken Tribunal) was set up to investigate the issue. Haughey vehemently denied the claims at first, but was eventually forced to admit that he had taken 1.3 million pounds from Dunne. It quickly became clear that Haughey's lavish lifestyle had been funded almost entirely by massive gifts of money from businessmen who had become incredibly wealthy during Haughey's period of influence. A further tribunal (the Moriarty Tribunal) has been set up to investigate.
Charles Haughey died on 13th June 2006 of complications associated with prostate cancer.