The lady who sold me my Irish Times this morning certainly didn’t have much time for Charlie Haughey, former Taoiseach. And nor did I. David McKittrick writing in this morning’s Independent says he was Ireland’s Richard Nixon. To that I would add that he was more like Ireland’s Silvio Berlusconi. It is offensive that such a man should be given a state funeral. His financial corruption was comprehensively established – but, like General Pinochet, he always seemed to be too ill to answer to it. He was lucky to escape prison. He was sacked from the Irish Government on allegations of gun-running for the IRA but staged a remarkable come-back. To me he simply expresses all that was most wrong with the old Ireland – a moral ambiguity about both violence and finance. In many ways, this state [of which I am a citizen] has made huge progress – becoming a prosperous, modern, european state – and some claim that he played his part in laying the foundations of that. I find that difficult. This is an unfortunate throw-back to the past.
Thanks Martin – for the reality/compassion check! Every time I allow myself to have a rant, I find that one of my old friends is watching. At his funeral … I would certainly be less political in my judgement. He was obviously a man of huge energy, charisma, vision and drive – although, strangely on the day I met him, none of those qualities was on view. I think I would try to find a way of suggesting that service of the common man was not a major driving force for him! My root problem is that, for all that I give thanks for the new Ireland in its prosperity and the opportunities it gives to its young people – and give CJH a share of credit for that, I tend to link the more dodgy aspects of its public morality with the Haughey era which began with land re-zoning issues around Dublin in the ’60’s and ’70’s. And finally – so who were the great Irish-men and women of 20th century. Where do we rate Sean Lemass? I tend to think that [with the possible exception of John Hume] the Nobel prize winners were over-rewarded.
David, many will agree with your assessment of Charlie Haughey, others are more positive about his contribution to Irish society. If you were preaching at his funeral, what would you say?
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