Tuesday, 13 June 2006
Death of Former Taoiseach: Expressions of Sympathy.
It is with great sadness that I learned of the death of the former Taoiseach and leader of Fianna Fáil, Mr. Charles Haughey. His passing is a very sad occasion and marks the end of an era. Today, my first thoughts are with Mrs. Maureen Haughey, a very private woman who shared in the life of a very public man for over half a century. I know that her qualities of dignity and grace will serve her well as she bears her private grief during the very public days that lie ahead. I extend my sympathy and that of the Government and Fianna Fáil to Maureen, Eimear, Conor and Ciarán Haughey and to our colleague, Deputy Seán Haughey.
Charles Haughey inherited a very rich tradition of public service and patriotism from his father, who served in the old IRA and, subsequently, in the Irish Army. Charles Haughey entered this House in 1957 and made a huge impact on Irish life in a political career over 35 years. He attained high political office and had the distinction of being elected Taoiseach on four occasions by Dáil Éireann. He served briefly as parliamentary secretary to the Minister for Justice before being appointed as Minister for Justice by Seán Lemass in 1961. He next served as Minister for Agriculture. It was a measure of the confidence Seán Lemass had in him that he did not hesitate to give this important position to a Deputy from Dublin. Under the leadership of Jack Lynch, Charles Haughey served as Minister for Finance and, in later years, as Minister for Health and Social Welfare. In these demanding portfolios, he proved himself to be a politician of vision and commitment, as well a considerable and able parliamentarian.
When analysing Charles Haughey's career, commentators will largely focus on his tenure as Taoiseach. However, we should also recall that he was one of the most dynamic and talented Ministers ever to grace this House. It would be a distortion of history to obscure the fact that Charles Haughey served with distinction in every ministerial position he held. His many imaginative initiatives will be remembered. Upon leaving office, many Ministers would be envious of the record of achievement attained by Charles Haughey. As Minister for Justice, he set in motion a radical law reform programme, most notably, the Civil Liability Act 1961, which codified the law of tort for the first time in a common law jurisdiction. He also introduced a Succession Act which was one of the most significant contributions to women's rights for decades. As Minister for Agriculture, he negotiated better prices and outlets for farmers in the Anglo-Irish Free Trade Area Agreement. As Minister for Finance, he introduced free electricity, free travel and free television and free radio licences for old age pensioners. As Minister for Health and Social Welfare, he used a large share of the increase in public service numbers to expand and modernise the health services. He also introduced the first legislative controls on tobacco advertising and sponsorship.
Charles Haughey was first elected as Taoiseach in 1979 and took over the reins of power at a time when the public finances were far removed from the prosperous climate of today. It was a time when resources were limited and hard choices were the order of the day. Charles Haughey's focus was always on the weak and more vulnerable in society. In his first term as Taoiseach, he gave three increases of 25% to old age pensioners and supported housing schemes to improve the living and housing conditions of the elderly.
On a personal level, I have reason to remember Charlie Haughey's second administration. The Government was formed in March 1982 and I was given the honour of being appointed Chief Whip. Later, I would be appointed Minister for Labour twice and Minister for Finance in subsequent Governments led by Charles Haughey. I was proud to have served with him and prouder still to call him a friend.
During his last five years as Taoiseach, he gave tremendous leadership to a programme of national recovery involving the social partners. At the recent Fianna Fáil 80th anniversary celebrations, I said the country owes much of its present prosperity to the creative decisions taken in 1987 and 1988 by Charles Haughey and his Government, in particular the then Minister for Finance, Ray MacSharry. This is my firm conviction, one that would withstand any objective historical analysis.
Charlie Haughey was a convinced europhile and established a fruitful relationship with the then President of the European Commission,Jacques Delors. He also ran a successful Irish Presidency of the European Community in 1990 immediately following the peaceful revolutions in eastern and central Europe. His reaching out towards Europe was an economic, cultural and political rebalancing of what was Ireland's historic overdependence on the Anglo-Irish relationship. Before leaving office, he crucially and bravely established some of the initial contacts that laid the foundations of the current peace process.
There are many other fine initiatives that Charles Haughey supported for which he will be gratefully remembered. These include the tax free status for artists, the establishment of Aosdána, the restoration of Dublin Castle, the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, the new Government Buildings, which he opened in 1991, the promotion of a flourishing bloodstock industry, the network of regional airports, Temple Bar, the International Financial Services Centre and the restoration of the Shannon-Erne waterway to name but a few. Many of these initiatives flowed from his genuine empathy with art and artists.
Charlie Haughey had an immense ability to get things done. He inspired great loyalty among many of his followers both inside and outside Fianna Fáil. Recently, these achievements have been clouded by revelations that are the subject of inquiry by the Moriarty tribunal. History will need to weigh up both the credit and debit sides more dispassionately than may be possible today. However, I have no doubt that its ultimate judgment of Charlie Haughey will be favourable.
Charles Haughey was a man of wide interests and many friends. He was a great patron of the arts and had a deep love of horses, but his abiding passion was politics and he worked hard for the people he represented. Charlie Haughey believed in public service and whether as Taoiseach, Minister, in Opposition or even in retirement, he never forgot the people he was elected to serve, particularly his constituents in Dublin North-Central.
During a long period, Charles Haughey faced a final battle that he knew he would ultimately lose. He bore his illness with great dignity and fortitude, his fighting spirit evident to the end. Charles Haughey was not only a man of many parts but also of many places. From Derry to Mayo to Kerry to Donnycarney, he was a favourite son. However, it was in the city of Dublin of which he was proud that he lived his life and made his political reputation.
On Friday, Bloomsday, he will be laid to rest. His affinity with the arts and his extraordinary and colourful life were every bit as interesting as those of Joyce's fictional hero, Leopold Bloom. Being buried on Bloomsday is a coincidence that Charlie Haughey would have deeply enjoyed.
I take the opportunity to express my sincere sympathies and those of the Fianna Fáil party to Charlie Haughey's wife, Maureen, his daughter, Eimear, his sons, Conor, Ciarán and Seán, and his wider family. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.
Fuair mé an scéal ar maidin go bhfuair Cathal Uí Eochaidh, an t-iar-Thaoiseach, bás inniu. Ní mórán Taoiseach a bhí againn sa tír seo, agus ní minic a tharlaíonn sé go mbíonn orainn rud éigin a rá faoi sa Teach seo. Ní féidir linn scéal shaol Chathail Uí Eochaidh, an scéal pearsanta agus polaitiúil, a phlé anseo inniu san am atá againn. Ar ócáid a bháis, ba mhaith liom mo chomhbhrón agus comhbhrón Pháirtí Fhine Gael a chur in iúl dá bhean chéile, Maureen, agus dá chlann ar fad, Seán, atá ina Theachta Dála, Conor, Eimear agus Ciarán.
Today is a sad day in the House and this country. It is fair to say that in myriad ways, Ireland feels the passing of Charles J. Haughey. We may have been on opposing sides in here, but I had a particular connection with Mr. Haughey, as it was my grandaunt who delivered him into this world in Castlebar 80 years ago despite the various perceptions of where he was actually born.
In his final words in the House as Taoiseach, Mr. Haughey quoted from "Othello" when he said he did the State some service. Today, his admirers and adversaries agree that, indeed, he did. Charles Haughey made an enormous contribution to the State, arts, business, European and Northern Ireland affairs and life in this country. His ministerial career sparked many innovations and considerable reform. In the House, he was a formidable opponent of prodigious intellect and a gifted debater, as many on this side and the Government side can testify. Two weeks ago, Members who were not here during his time had an indication of a flavour of riveting politics when the House debated issues of real concern. This is how it was during the Haughey years week in, week out. Whether in Government or Opposition and whether one liked or agreed with his statements, they could never be overlooked.
Charles Haughey was as respected abroad as he was controversial at home. He had close working relationships with then Chancellor Kohl, then President Mitterand and then Italian Prime Minister Andreotti. I remember quite vividly that during some intense Northern Ireland negotiations, someone commented on how in Mr. Haughey's presence, the Iron Lady herself, Mrs. Thatcher, became positively skittish. It was something that might have appealed to his pride and his legendary black sense of humour.
On the day of his death, it is fair and right to say Charles Haughey was, in his time, a dominant and 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 quite ruthless in a heartbeat. Anyone summoned to his presence did not forget the occasion quickly.
They say that to live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die. In the hearts of his family and friends and in those of many within Fianna Fáil, Charles Haughey will live on in a real way as a husband, father, grandfather, trusted confidant and someone deeply loved, respected and sadly missed. Today, our hearts are with them as they mourn their loss.
In the coming days and weeks, there will be much discussion about Charles Haughey the politician and there will be the opportunity for those who wish to do so to dissect and analyse the ups and downs of his political career. However, on the day of his death, I want to talk about Mr. Haughey the man. Anyone here or in the country who has had troubles in his or her life knows that often we do not realise how strong people really are until we see them at their weakest moments. Regardless of how people felt about Charles Haughey politically, anyone with even the vaguest sense of our shared humanity could see that he bore his humiliations with dignity, courage and a deep personal pain.
The Celtic tradition with which Charles Haughey felt so aligned says that at the time of death, the full embrace of the soul gathers around us. It does not leave abruptly. Rather, it takes its leave slowly. Today of all days, as Charles Haughey leaves one life to begin another, I am sure his slow leave-taking will include this building where he lived the many highs and lows of political life for more than a quarter century and over which the tricolour flies at half mast.
I have quoted before the famous poem by John O'Donoghue, Beannacht, which, for the sailor, is appropriate:
When the canvas frays in the curach of thought
And a stain of ocean blackens beneath you,
May there come across the waters
A path of yellow moonlight
To bring you safely home.
May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
May the clarity of light be yours,
May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
May the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow wind work these words of love around you
An invisible cloak to mind your life.
I join the Taoiseach and Deputy Kenny in extending my sympathy and that of the Labour Party to the Fianna Fáil Party, to our colleague in the House, Deputy Haughey, and to Mrs. Maureen Haughey and her family.
No figure was so dominant for so long in Irish politics. The Taoiseach is correct to say Mr. Haughey contributed much that was good to Irish life. Anybody who was fortunate enough to be elected Taoiseach four times and to hold several Ministries could not but have had a positive influence and made changes for the good of our people. I acknowledge that fact in the case of Mr. Haughey but it would be hypocritical of me, as somebody who opposed him in this House, not to say there was a darker side to his legacy. Today is not the time for a rigorous or balanced assessment but to acknowledge that he bore a serious illness with great dignity and did the State some service. Today is a day to remember he has a family, like everyone else, who mourn his passing.
He inspired tremendous loyalty and vehement opposition, so much so that his opponents were driven to found a new political party. There will, as Deputy Kenny said, be much analysis outside this House, but what has been said today is on the record and I do not intend to venture from the common decencies that ought to be observed on an occasion like this. The Taoiseach's statement that Mr. Haughey was involved in the genesis of the peace process is shown by history to be right. However, history should also record that he was involved in the genesis of the horror that was inflicted on us over 30 years, on which some analysis is also required. Some analysis also needs to be done on his and his party's cynical opposition to the Anglo-Irish Agreement.
As for being the creator of the Celtic tiger and of the prosperity to which the Taoiseach referred, ten years earlier his mistaken policies made a significant contribution to the difficulties we encountered. It is all very well to praise the period 1987 to 1989, but that followed a national poster campaign offering an alternative that did not hurt the sick, the old and the handicapped, the opposite of which was implemented. It is misleading for individual politicians to claim authorship of the Celtic tiger because there was a bipartisan approach in this House for 40 years on investment in education, on industrial strategy and on a low corporate tax regime. These factors came together following accession to the EU to contribute much to our prosperity.
Mr. Haughey was a unique politician who, as the Taoiseach said, served with distinction in a number of different Ministries. There are many positive reasons to recall his political record. There are many ordinary people who are grateful to him for decisions he made. He was a reforming Minister for Justice, an immensely skilful parliamentarian who enjoyed the theatre of this House, and a very talented politician. All of us in the House would like to be able to say he applied his talents exclusively to public service, but we must ask to what extent his behaviour as a senior politician has contributed to the lowering of the public esteem in which politics are held.
Today our prime concern should be for his family, for whom it must have been a very difficult time. The Labour Party and I extend sincere sympathies and condolences to them.
On behalf of the Progressive Democrats, I join other speakers in remembering and doing honour to the memory of Charles Haughey who died this morning after battling bravely with a relentless and mortal illness.
I convey on behalf of all my party colleagues to his son Seán, our parliamentary colleague, our fondest and heartfelt sympathy on the passing of his father. Although circumstances of recent weeks and months may have prepared Seán in some way for today's events and the passing of his father, there is no preparation that takes away the private pain and the grief of the loss of a devoted and caring parent, or the sense of loss of a loving son. I know, however, there is a universal sense of support for Deputy Haughey in this House today.
I also want to remember Maureen Haughey, and the other family members, Eimear, Ciaran and Conor. Families play a huge role and make enormous sacrifices to support those who play a role in public life. Few spouses choose the life which public office thrusts upon them but none can match the dignity and steadfast loyalty Maureen Haughey has always shown in her years as Charles Haughey's spouse and partner. Although it has been said that children have no choice as to their parents, from a distance it has always been blindingly obvious that the Haughey children would have chosen no other parents than Charlie and Maureen.
Charles Haughey held many key Ministries and the office of Taoiseach in this State, and had many achievements and accomplishments in those capacities. It has been suggested he brought the Progressive Democrats into existence. Perhaps he did, but he certainly brought us into Government and we will not forget that. He was a navigator on the seas of controversy and excited strong feelings and passions throughout his career. Today is not the time nor the occasion for dispassionate judgment, still less for criticism or for discord. The Romans put it well in the phrase, De mortuis nil nisi bonum, which means: "Speak only good of those who lie dead". There will be plenty of time hereafter for passionate and dispassionate assessments of the legacy of Charles Haughey.
On behalf of my parliamentary party colleagues and for my own part, I wish to remember today those of Charles Haughey's actions which will always stand as achievements and to reflect on the fact that he held democratic office in this State, as we all do, by the will of the people whom we all serve and by whom in the last analysis we all fall to be judged. I will renew our strong message of sympathy to Seán, his mother and his brothers and sister. In conclusion, ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam cróga.
Déanaim mo chomhbhrón le bean chéile Chathail Uí Eochaidh, Máirín, lena chlann, go mórmhór lena mhac, Seán, atá ina Theachta Dála, agus le Páirtí Fhianna Fáil ar fad, atá tar éis ceannaire a chailliúint. Is lá brónach é seo do gach duine a thugann tacaíocht d'Fhianna Fáil. Mar Theachta Dála i dtuaisceart Átha Cliath, bhuail mé go minic le Cathal Ó hEochaidh, a bhí ina chónaí sa cheantar le fada an lá, agus ba mhinic a labhair muid le chéile mar gheall ar chúrsaí de gach sórt. Is cinnte gur dhuine é a raibh a lán taithí, eolais agus tuairimí aige. Bhí sé suimiúil i gcónaí.
In human terms, today is very much a day of bereavement, particularly for Charlie Haughey's wife and family, but also for all his supporters and the Fianna Fáil Party generally. It is also a political event as evidenced by the Government's decision to grant Mr. Haughey a State funeral. As a Deputy and Minister for many years, he served under former taoisigh Seán Lemass and Jack Lynch. As Taoiseach, he led Governments which included the former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds and the current Taoiseach. In many ways, Charles Haughey epitomises a different time, a time of Noel Browne, a much younger looking Tony Gregory, The Workers' Party and the Progressive Democrats with whom he came to have a very interesting relationship, as the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has outlined.
However, Charles J. Haughey could also be said to be someone who delighted in the maxim that politics is the art of the possible. If anything, he tested that maxim to breaking point, which will be an issue for debate in the days and years to come. There is no doubt that his story is one of the most colourful ever told about anybody involved in Irish politics. He had an ability to dig a hole for himself but he also had an ability to dig himself out of a hole, which often involved a huge amount of energy, dedication and intelligence.
This is not a day for analysis, however, it is one for recalling those people who are affected by his passing and the many who have memories of Charlie Haughey. In Dublin North there is a maxim, "The tribe with the fat chieftain never goes hungry", which applies to Charles J. Haughey and explains why he had such huge support and loyalty. For many people, that was enough and it ensured that people regarded him, as many have said, as a lovable rogue. The charm he brought to politics was employed to great effect. I experienced some of that charm during the fraught general and European elections of 1989. Having polled far better than my adversaries foretold, Mr. Haughey wasted no time at the count in the RDS in deciding that he would have to congratulate me. I recall the sea of people around the Fianna Fáil side of the count centre. There was a ripple and the crowd parted, something like the Red Sea, and from it appeared this man whom one could imagine like Moses. He came across, shook my hand and said, "Well done young man, I'm a bit of a Green myself".
Anybody who met Charles Haughey knew that he had an ability to get straight to where he felt their feelings and aspirations lay. He earned respect by using considerable charm, as has been referred to by Deputy Kenny, in confronting the Iron Lady, the British Prime Minister at the time, Margaret Thatcher. At a time when Ireland needed strong nationalist leadership, he provided an important role which was a catalyst for the considerable progress that has been made towards peace on this island — I hope for all time.
That being said, his death should also be a catalyst for examining where rules need to be put in place for planning and land rezoning and bringing together that huge divide in Irish society between those who have property and those who do not. The Kenny report of 1973 should be the catalyst to bring us forward and leave behind what was a murky past. Charles Haughey was identified with that past, although unfairly in many ways. He undertook the art of the possible but the rules should be re-examined. Those rules are still in place, even though Charles Haughey has left us.
Tá mé cinnte go raibh go leor againn, mé féin ach go háirithe, d'aon ghuth le Cathal Ó hEochaidh agus muid ag plé chúrsaí na Gaeilge, na Gaeltachta agus, go mórmhór, Corca Dhuibhne. Is cinnte gur thug sé an-chlú agus cáil ar an cheantar sin, anuas ar an chlú agus cáil a bhí air cheana féin. Tá a fhios agam go bhfuil go leor i measc na ndaoine a thug tacaíocht dó inár ndáilcheantar i dtuaisceart Átha Cliath agus, go deimhin, i gCorca Dhuibhne, den tuairim nach mbeidh a leithéid ann aríst go deo, agus tá an ceart acu. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.
On my own behalf and that of the Sinn Féin Deputies, I extend our sympathies to Charles Haughey's widow, Maureen, our colleague, Deputy Seán Haughey, his other sons and daughter, and the members of the Haughey family. For many years, Charles Haughey certainly trod a chequered pathway through the political life of the nation. In his own words, he gave 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 for a talks process aside, particularly in this year which marks the 25th anniversary of the deaths of ten young Irish republicans on hunger strike and the 25th anniversary last Sunday of the election of Kieran Doherty, TD, to represent the constituency that I represent today, republicans will remember Charles Haughey's failure to stand up in real terms to Margaret Thatcher in 1980 and 1981.
The debate about his legacy and his contribution to Irish society is one for another day. Today our thoughts are with his family who have suffered a deep loss. May he rest in peace. Suaimhneas síoraí dá anam.
It was with great sadness that I learned of the death of the former Taoiseach, Charles J. Haughey, who was a colleague and friend. I entered national politics in 1989 on the Fianna Fáil Dublin North-Central ticket with the then Taoiseach Charles Haughey, when we won three out of four seats in that constituency. Charlie was a skilled politician who had the ability not only to perform on the world stage but also to connect with his constituents on the doorsteps. He never lost sight of what was important to his constituents and they consistently rewarded him with record personal support. It is impossible to even think of the Ireland of today without recognising the impact of Charles Haughey's vision for our country and its people.
His achievements have already been highlighted in many of the tributes paid to him today. I know he will be remembered fondly by those who really knew him and those who were represented by him. Charlie was a great leader and public representative but, above all, he was a great and loyal friend. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Maureen, his daughter, Eimear, his sons Conor, Ciarán and my colleague, Seán, his surviving brothers, Fr. Eoin and Sean, his surviving sister, Maureen, and the rest of the extended Haughey family at this sad and difficult time.
On behalf of the Independent Deputies and on a personal and human level, I express my deepest sympathy to Maureen Haughey and her family at this sad and difficult time. We have all had our political disagreements but I agree with my colleagues that this is not the day for dealing with political matters. Today is a day of sympathy for the family.
On a personal level, I have worked with Seán Haughey for many years on Dublin City Council and since I was elected to the Dáil in 2002. I have always found Seán a courteous gentleman with a great sense of humour. We work very well together. I express a personal sympathy to Seán on the death of his father.
Charlie Haughey, as he was widely known around Donnycarney, had a big name for many years and did a great deal of work in the community, particularly in Donnycarney and Dublin North-Central generally. It is important on a day like this that we reflect on the situation with regard to illness in our society, particularly cancer. The recent years have been a difficult period for the Haughey family. Those of us who know people who have suffered and fought this illness for many years know how difficult it is for the patient but also for the family.
On a lighter note, I will tell a story concerning an election campaign at the beginning of my political career. I was outside Sunday morning mass at Ardlea Road church in Artane with a number of colleagues. I was in charge of giving out leaflets and organising the election workers, and I was accompanied by my late father, who came to offer his radical son moral support. While there, Charlie suddenly pulled up in a big car. He got out and the crowd started to move towards him. I was telling my workers to hold their nerve, stay strong, keep giving out the leaflets and keep canvassing when, out of the side of my eye, I saw my own father talking away to Charlie Haughey. Afterwards, I asked him: "Why did you do that to me, Dad, in the middle of the battle?" He said: "I just wanted to meet Charlie Haughey." That was the impact he had. Like him or dislike him, he had an impact like that on people.
I also want to refer to an important matter for one, like myself, who has worked in the inner city for 20 years, about which I know the Taoiseach will agree, namely, the Gregory deal. We all remember the dark 1980s — the massive unemployment, the heroin deaths, all the funerals of the young children and the educational disadvantage. At that time, the Gregory deal and the investment in the north inner city was a breath of fresh air and was of valuable assistance to the community.
To Maureen and the Haughey family, I offer my deepest sympathy.
I express my sympathy to the Haughey family. Charlie was a colossus locally. When I came into politics, I was very much the rookie. Paddy Belton was then on his way out and the Beltons and the Haugheys were very close. They were political opponents throughout their lives but they were also extremely close. They never saw one another put aside and always remembered the link they had, which went way back.
It is with great sadness that one sees the end of a man who made such a contribution over so many years. Organisationally, he brought politics to a new level, certainly in Dublin North-Central. He had a system of block captains and contacts in the constituency that was unrivalled. One never knew where Haughey's people were. One could canvass a street up and down and one would never see a sign of a Haughey supporter but when the boxes were opened, they were there in droves.
He attracted fantastic loyalty. If Members go to Donnycarney church on Friday, as I am sure most will, they will get a sense of the support he had. When church gates were a big thing, Charlie Haughey would have a phalanx around him that was unequalled. I am surprised Deputy Finian McGrath claims he was able to give out a leaflet. One would be pushed into the siding because Mr. Haughey had such a tremendous following.
He was a man with whom I never had a row throughout my career in politics — I know that is not true of everyone on the other side of the House. Having survived with him in the constituency, I never had a row with him. He was a man I respected during the years.
In particular, I offer sympathy to Seán. He has had to live his politics in the shadow of Charles Haughey, who was such a formidable person. Seán has carved out his own identity in politics, which is a great achievement for him, and has the tradition of the Haugheys behind him. I offer particular sympathy to Seán on his loss.