Death of former Taoiseach
Death of former Taoiseach

The legacy of controversial former 26-County Taoiseach Charles Haughey is under debate following his death aged 80 at his home in Kinsealy, County Dublin, on Tuesday morning.

Mr Haughey was awarded a State funeral before he was laid to rest at St Fintan’s Cemetery in Dublin on Thursday.

The Requiem Mass was attended by President Mary McAleese, members of the Government, Opposition leaders, the judiciary, the diplomatic corps, friends and relatives of the Haughey family and parishioners from Donnycarney.

Old associates of Mr Haughey in government Ray Burke and Padraig Flynn attended the funeral as did friends such as financier Dermot Desmond and artist Robert Ballagh. Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams and the party’s leader in the Dail, Caomhghin O Caolain were also in attendance.

The church was full to capacity with 2,000 mourners present for the Mass but the crowds outside were smaller than had been predicted. An estimated 1,000 attended at the cemetery for the burial.

The national flag flew at half-mast over the Dublin parliament this week as Charles Haughey was remembered in the Dail chamber he had dominated for so long. Most of the tributes were personal and generous but the hugely divisive controversies that marked his political life inevitably broke through.

In an oration, his recrod was defended by the current Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, who said in his graveside oration that history’s judgment of him would be positive.

“I saw him at first hand,” said Mr Ahern. “He was a consummate politician, He exhibited grace under pressure. He had an incisive mind, superb parliamentary skills, a proud identity with Ireland, all of Ireland. A profound respect in victory and defeat for our democratic institutions,” said Mr Ahern.

Mr Haughey’s successor as the leader of Fianna Fail also argued that Mr Haughey had left “a huge legacy of lasting achievement” which this generation had based its own progress upon.

“History will favourably record that from 1988 Charlie Haughey took the first steps on a long road to peace.”

He added: “His courageous decision to open a secret channel of communication with the Provisional leadership paved the way to the banishing of the bomb and bullet, North and South, in our time.”

Sean Haughey, who succeeded to his father’s Dublin North Central seat, said his critics in the media had dominated the debate about his record but he believed that historians would be more positive.

He quoted his mother as saying: “It seems everybody hates Charlie Haughey except the people.”


While many of his critics were willing to view him, at least initially, as something of a benign dictator, others were harsher and did not shy from recalling the major corruption and other scandals which surrounded Mr Haughey.

Opposition Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said Haughey “was, in his time, an outstanding figure in Irish politics, in terms of intellect and ambition. He was also mercurial. To the degree that he was in many ways a perfect contradiction, with an ability to be both charming and ruthless in a heartbeat. I would imagine that anyone summoned to his presence didn’t forget the occasion very quickly.”

Labour leader Pat Rabbitte said that it would be hypocritical not to acknowledge that there was “a darker side”. He took issue with the Taoiseach for attributing the peace process to Mr Haughey, saying that he was also involved in the creation of the horror of 30 years. “Some analysis needs to be done on that and also needs to be done on his opposition to the [1985] Anglo-Irish Agreement.” As the Fianna Fail benches became restive, Mr Rabbitte said that it was wrong to attribute the creation of the Celtic Tiger solely to Mr Haughey or to any other politician. He added that while Mr Haughey was a talented politician his behaviour had lowered the public esteem in which politicians were held.

Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghin O Caolain extended sympathy to the Haughey family, adding that Mr Haughey had certainly trod a chequered pathway through the political life of the nation.

“He did of course, in his own words, give some service and it is right that his achievements are acknowledged and remembered. And they will be.

“Some will remember him fondly. More will hold a jaundiced view of his stewardship. The arms trial episode and early support of a talks process aside - particularly in this year, the 25th anniversary of the deaths of ten young Irish republicans on hunger strike, and the 25th Anniversary on Sunday past of the election of Kieran Doherty TD -- republicans will remember his failure to stand up to Thatcher in 1980 and 1981.”

John Kelly, a former Sinn Féin assembly member, who knew Charles Haughey since the late 1960s and both were acquitted in the infamous Arms Trial’, said Mr Haughey was a northerner at heart.

“In the mid ‘80s he was the first politician to declare publicly that the six counties was a ‘failed political entity’,” said Mr Kelly. “We only have to look today at the shambles surrounding northern political life to realise how prophetic his analysis was.

“Above all Charlie Haughey was a great visionary. He was a great Irishman in the truest sense of the word. He was also a great European who saw Europe as Ireland’s gateway to her independence, economically and politically.”

Senator Ted Kennedy led US tributes to Mr Haughey, whom he described as a “political genius” and a “profile in courage”.

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© 2006 Irish Republican News