The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Haughey and the National Question

 

Maria McCann • Forum Magazine, June/July 2006

The political career of Charles Haughey straddled the three decades from 1961-92, a period dominated by events north of the border. Yet if one examines Charles Haughey's political career one can find no ideological consistency on the national question. His approach, at any given time, was the product of a deep-seated cynical opportunism and was almost always determined by his proximity to political power. Periods in opposition witnessed incessant republican rhetoric, while periods in office produced bouts of sterile Anglo-Irish 'teapot' diplomacy: diplomacy which always underpinned the southern state's primary objectives of developing new ways of curbing armed struggle, ensuring internal stability, and maintaining partition within an acceptable paradigm. Unity was never seriously sought or explored. Republican rhetoric was the silage unsheathed for the electoral herd.

Six months after having become leader of Fianna Fail, in a May 1980 Panorama interview, Haughey urged British politicians to withdraw "the constitutional guarantee to unionists, the major stumbling block to progress." This traditional republican critique echoed similar sentiments previously expressed by Cardinal O'Fiach. This analysis was sustained in opposition throughout 1985 when Haughey rejected the Anglo-Irish Agreement. It had "copper-fastened partition" and would be renegotiated if the party regained power, Haughey promised the Fianna Fail faithful. However, upon returning to power in January 1987, far from renegotiating the Agreement, Haughey embraced the entrenched unionist veto and, more importantly from a British perspective, implemented a series of measures designed to enhance what was at the time euphemistically referred to as cross-border security.

Ideological inconsistency, cynical opportunism, defeating armed struggle, maintaining southern internal stability, exploring new methods of operating partition - these were the hallmarks of Haughey's northern policy.

One always had to separate Haughey's garrulous commitment to unity from the grimy realpolitik that was his relentless pursuit and retention of power. His handling of the 1981 hunger strike epitomised this characteristic more than any other event during his tenure in office. The election of anti-H-Block candidates ensured Haughey's removal from power in June 1981. As far as Haughey was concerned, here lay the real crisis of 1981. His weasel-mouthed attempt at H-Block mediation was motivated by a desire to manipulate vulnerable prisoners' families into terminating the hunger strike, lest it frustrate his electoral prospects. As Bobby Sands wrote: "Mr. Haughey has the means to end the H-Block crisis and has consistently refused to do so, I view his prompting of my family as cynical and cold-blooded manipulation of people vulnerable to this type of pressure". Never once throughout the entire prison protest did Haughey threaten to break-off diplomatic relations with Britain or terminate cross-border security cooperation. And when asked by an RTE interviewer if he agreed with Sile de Valera, who said that if hunger strikers died it was Thatcher's responsibility, Haughey replied that he did not concur. Haughey's handling of the H-Block dispute was shameful.

Fianna Fail's response to the eruption of the northern conflict spawned the Haughey myth, a myth which eventually helped elevate him to high office. Prior to 1969 Haughey exhibited no republican inclinations. Indeed in 1962, as Minister for Justice, he re-activated the Special Criminal Court to smash the IRA's Border Campaign. Thereafter he maintained a conspicuous silence on the north. However, in 1969, Lynch gave Haughey control of £100,000 to assist beleaguered northern nationalists. Around this time Charles Haughey met Cathal Goulding, the then IRA Chief-of-Staff. Goulding later alleged Haughey offered him a deal whereby the IRA would desist from radical political activity in the south in return for financial support and a free hand in the north. This meeting fuelled a persistent rumour that Haughey indirectly helped form the Provisionals.

The 1970 Arms Trial temporarily halted Haughey's ministerial career and seemingly put paid to any prospect of high office. Haughey denied any knowledge that guns were being imported. But Jim Gibbons, the then Minister for Defence, implicated Haughey in the attempted importation. Some argued that Haughey acted out of a patriotic empathy for northern nationalists. Others believed Haughey viewed the northern crisis as an ideal opportunity to remove an indecisive Lynch from office. One thing is certain, while Blaney and Boland seemed only too happy to fall on their republican swords, Haughey was devastated by his post-acquittal demotion. Brought to heel, he voted in support of Jim Gibbons in two post-trial confidence motions in Leinster House. This was a step too far for Blaney and Boland, both of whom resigned from Fianna Fail in disgust. Haughey rebuilt his political career and commenced his long path to power.

In May 1987 Tim Pat Coogan visited Kinsealy and handed Haughey a Gerry Adams authored 7,000-word document outlining the terms for an IRA ceasefire and the creation of a pan-nationalist alliance. Haughey coaxed the Provisionals along while extraditing their political prisoners to Britain: a classic case of carrot and stick. Ed Maloney wrote: "no single Irish politician did more than Haughey to start the Provos on the path that eventually resulted in the ceasefires". It is a crowded stage but Haughey could, with some justification, claim to be one of the main architects of the peace process.

He was central to the events that led to the creation of the Provisionals. After having served eleven years in senior ministerial portfolios and nine as Taoiseach, who would have predicted that Haughey would also be central to the creation of a process that has witnessed Gerry Adams lead the Provisional movement back down the path to the very point from which it originally split from Cathal Goulding? Charles Haughey, the connecting thread, the alpha and omega, in the ignominious Provisional saga.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Index: Current Articles



9 July 2006

Other Articles From This Issue:

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

Greenfest
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

Orangefest
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
Marcella Sands

The Framing of Michael McKevitt: Preliminary Hearings
Marcella Sands

Jury Duty Free State
Dolours Price

Even the Obnoxious
Anthony McIntyre


2 July 2006

Spectre
Anthony McIntyre

Salvaging History from Defeat
Forum Magazine Editorial

Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome
Dolours Price

Monsignor Denis Faul: Tribute
Ruairí Ó Brádaigh

Protest Continues in Maghaberry
Republican Prisoners Action Group (RPAG) statement

Where the Wind Blows
Dr John Coulter

What's Shaking
John Kennedy

Left, Right, Left, Right Wrong
Mick Hall

Irish Democracy, A Framework for Unity
Francis Mackey

The Peace Progress and the State
Davy Carlin

'The Church Brought to its Knees': Two books on Catholic Ireland's retreat
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Somme Battle Conspiracy
Dr John Coulter

March March March
John Kennedy

What's Good for the Goose is Good for the Gander!
Patrick Hurley

Sovereignty Movement Condemns Racist Attacks
Andy Martin, 32 CSM

Greens Propose Plastic Bag Tax to Help Fund Environment Watchdog
Green Party Press Release

The Framing of Michael McKevitt: Introduction
Marcella Sands

The Framing of Michael McKevitt: Garda Harassment & Eventual Sitch-up
Marcella Sands

Alternative
Dolours Price

Judas 118 or DUP Strategy of Subversion?
Anthony McIntyre

 

 

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