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Brits Not to Blame for Haughey


David Adams • Irish Times, 23 June 2006

From a Northern unionist perspective, it has been interesting to follow reaction in the Republic to the death of Charles Haughey.

Nowhere, over the past week or so, has the sharp division of opinion that he provoked been better illustrated than in the regular columns and special features of this newspaper.

Particularly notable have been contributions from those who, despite widely differing views on Haughey's legacy, seem united on one point at least: a determination that the British be dragged into the fray.

On one side, there is a belief that his financial and other indiscretions can be excused and his achievements only fully appreciated, by measuring them against the British.

On the other, is a firm conviction that ultimate blame for all Haughey's faults should be laid squarely at the door of British colonialism in Ireland.

Martin Mansergh was first with the British comparison when, in an article on Haughey (16th June), he said Winston Churchill had also accepted money from well-wishers but no one had ever accused him of being corrupt.

Besides the debatable notion that Charles Haughey was in any way comparable as person, politician or statesman to Churchill, it seems strange that a senior member of Fianna Fáil should feel the need to measure for efficacy a former taoiseach's behaviour against that of a former British prime minister.

Neither did the comparisons end there.

On at least seven other occasions in the article, Senator Mansergh referred in Haughey's favour to British prime ministers, British industrial legislation, Britain's withdrawal from Zimbabwe and its involvement in the Falklands war. A fascination with all things British that would suggest there is such a thing as excessive colonial preoccupation.

On the other side of the argument, Eddie Holt (June 17th) made clear his disgust at the flaunting by Haughey of his opulence.

He could not resist, however, shifting the blame for this on to the British.

In Holt's view, the Haughey lifestyle - with all of the "mansion-living, island-owning, horse-riding, duck-shooting, yachting, hunting, arts-patronage, pricey meals and pricey clothes" - was, at least in part, him trying to ape "the boss class of our former coloniser".

Haughey's posing for photographs on horseback and at duck-shoots was reminiscent of an "ageing Anglo-Irish buck".

Even Haughey's bowler hat fell foul of Eddie's ire, as those particular pieces of headgear are "English icons, worn by parading Orangemen in the North".

For me those dreadful photos of Haughey posing on horseback, or with newly slain ducks, were reminiscent of another short, extremely vain man, Benito Mussolini.

Landing somewhere between the positions of Eddie Holt and Martin Mansergh, was John Waters' column last Monday.

Like Mansergh, he admires Haughey, though for very different reasons.

He too alluded to Haughey's aping of "elites", as well as the debilitating effect on Irish society of "radical interference by outsiders" and "post-colonialism". Unlike Holt, he reckons those, and much more about Haughey, were all admirable traits when considered in the proper context of a post-colonial Ireland.

Waters declared: "The enemies were right, too, when they called him a thief. He stole Ireland back from the elite . . . "

Waters' position, I think, is that Haughey taught the Irish people how to get over having been oppressed by the British and restored their collective pride, by giving them his over-indulgent, corrupt, self to admire.

A somewhat novel idea that, no doubt, has been noted as a possible line of defence by any Irish person concerned they might be charged at some time in the future with misappropriating public funds.

There is something rather juvenile and pathetic in this invoking of the long-gone British presence in Ireland as an excuse for everything that ails.

In the Waters' piece, even the Famine is mentioned in a long list of past wrongs that somehow contributed to Haughey's excesses.

In the Ireland of 2006, that's a bit like an 84-year-old standing in the dock citing his grandparents' deprived childhood as reason for his own bad behaviour.

We are talking here, remember, about one of the most prosperous countries in the world.

For some, just how good does it have to get in the Republic before they move into post post-colonial mode? As for Haughey himself, he was not the flawed genius that a few claim him to be. He wasn't any type of genius at all, just deeply flawed. Neither did Britain, or even Ireland, play any unique role in shaping the defective character of the opportunist, self-centred, complete pragmatist that was Charles Haughey. He could have happened anywhere, and frequently does.

The Republic prospered and modernised in spite of him and his type: he will command a mere footnote in Irish history. Indeed, for the young people of Ireland, he already does.

Reprinted with permission from the author.






























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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



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Index: Current Articles

9 July 2006

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Father Faul Saved Many Lives
Richard O'Rawe

Richard O'Rawe, PSF, and Events in 1981
Gerard Foster

Looking Back on 1981
Anthony McIntyre

Haughey and the National Question
Maria McCann

Brits Not to Blame for Haughey
David Adams

John Kennedy

Euston Manifesto: Yesterday's News
Mick Hall

Considering A Multi-Faceted Approach to the Middle East
Mehdi Mozaffari

Book Better Than Its Title
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Crowning Mr Unionist
Dr John Coulter

Extra Time Will Not Be Decisive
David Adams

'Pretty Much a Busted Flush'
Anthony McIntyre

John Kennedy

Just Books Web-launch
Jason Brannigan

The Framing of Michael McKevitt: Omagh, David Rupert, MI5 & FBI Collusion
Marcella Sands

The Framing of Michael McKevitt
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The Framing of Michael McKevitt: Preliminary Hearings
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Jury Duty Free State
Dolours Price

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Forum Magazine Editorial

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