Haughey's £1 million only the first step
BY ROBBIE MacGABHANN
``Gotcha'', proclaimed one Dublin tabloid newspaper this week on the news that Charlie Haughey, former Dublin Government Taoiseach and Fianna Fáil leader, was to pay the Revenue Commissioners just over £1 million in settlement of tax due on payments made to him that were uncovered by the McCracken Tribunal.
Yes. Haughey has been made to finally begin the process of paying up for years of backhanders, but it is only a first step. For example, how will Haughey pay his £1 million tax bill? According to the Revenue Commissioners, he is to sell land and other assets.
This begs the question: where did he get the money to buy land worth £1 million in the first place? Once you step onto that road, the Haughey years become a quagmire of hidden monies, favours and undeclared gifts.
The still undealt with issues relating to Haughey's 30 years in government fall into four broad areas.
First, there is the question of what other monies has he received that were not uncovered under the McCracken Tribunal. This tribunal that was set up after the disclosure of payments by Ben Dunne to Michael Lowry, Haughey and a range of other politicians and public figures. Already, the Moriarty Tribunal has uncovered payments by Dermot Desmond running into hundreds of thousands of pounds.
The second issue is the use of the tax evading offshore accounts at Ansbacher Bank. Haughey, as a former minister for Finance, Taoiseach and a member of a government which dealt with the issue of DIRT tax and illegal offshore accounts, must surely have know the illegality of possessing such an account.
The third Haughey issue that needs to be investigated is the question of other political donations given to Fianna Fáil but kept by Haughey. For example, the Moriarty Tribunal has uncovered a practice whereby the Fianna Fáil leader's account was used to finance Haughey's lavish lifestyle, including five-figure spending on expensive restaurants and clothes. How much other money destined for Fianna Fáil was diverted to his own personal expenses?
Finally, there is the question of the political influence Haughey could have wielded on behalf of his benefactors and patrons.
A 1976 AIB memo states that Haughey criticised the bank for not making ``use of his influential position and he indicated that he would be in a position to assist the bank in directing new business etc. He intends to devote a further ten years to politics''. Haughey had debts at AIB of £876,405 by June 1979.
Haughey had in 1976 been promoted onto the opposition front bench. In 1977, he became Minister for Health and in 1979 took the Taoiseach's position. How many other offers similar to the AIB one did Haughey make when actually in political office?
The strangest aspect of the Haughey years is that the claim has been made that he believed that as a political leader he should have trappings of office commensurate with his powers. The logic is that he deserved the expensive clothes, the lavish meals and the Gandon mansion.
However, when you look back at the Haughey years today as tribunal follows tribunal and inquiry, you find decades of backhanders, tax evasion and planning abuses, carried out by a state's self appointed political and business elite, unencumbered by the laws they made for the rest of us.
Now Haughey, unperturbed by the events at the neverending tribunals, is carving out a niche for himself as an elder statesman, as a rehabilitated Nixon who can offer sage-like advice. His contribution to the recent Seven Ages programme is a prime example of this rehabilitation.
Haughey has not been ``got''. Perhaps, given the lack of political will to truly investigate his years in office, we might as well look to Buffy the Vampire Slayer to deliver the final blow.