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Charles Haughey

Charles (Charlie) James Haughey (Ir. Cathal Ó hEochaidh) (born September 16, 1925), was the sixth Taoiseach of the Republic of Ireland, serving three terms in office; 1979 to 1981, 1982 and 1987 to 1992. Haughey was first elected to Dáil Éireann as a TD for Dublin in 1957, and was re-elected at each election until 1992. Haughey also served as Minister for Health & Social Welfare (1977-1979), Minister for Finance (1966-1970), Minister for Agriculture (1964-1966) and Minister for Justice (1961-1964). He also served as a Parliamentary Secretary. Haughey was the fourth leader of Fianna Fáil from 1979 until 1992. Haughey is credited with reforming the economy in the late eighties and early nineties, however, allegations about financial dealings and corruption have weakened his popularity in recent years.

An Taoiseach Charles J. Haughey
Rank: 6th Taoiseach
First Term: December 11 1979 - June 30 1981
Second Term: March 9 1982 - December 14 1982
Third Term: March 10 1987 - February 11 1992
Predecessors: Jack Lynch, Garret FitzGerald
Successors: Garret FitzGerald, Albert Reynolds
Date of Birth: Wednesday, September 16, 1925
Place of Birth: Mayo, Ireland
Profession: Accountant
Political Party: Fianna Fáil

Early Life

Charles J. Haughey was born on September 16, 1925 in Castlebar, County Mayo. Both his parents were born and reared in Derry, his father being an officer in the Irish Republican Army. Not long after Haughey's birth his father developed multiple sclerosis and had to retire from the army. Not long after the Haughey family moved to Dublin. He was educated at St. Joseph's in Marino, where one of his classmates was George Colley, the man he would later become his cabinet colleague and great rival in Fianna Fáil. Following his secondary education Haughey studied at University College Dublin and King's Inns, where he qualified as an accountant. It was here where Haughey became interested in politics and also where he met another of his great political rivals, Garret FitzGerald. After leaving university Haughey worked as an accountant with the firm Haughey, Boland & Company.

Haughey married Maureen Lemass, the daughter of the Fianna Fáil Minister and future Taoiseach, Seán F. Lemass, in 1951. Haughey worked hard and was a wealthy man by 1960, owning a farm in County Meath, racehorses, a chicken hatchery and even his own island, Innishvickillaun .

Early Political Life

Haughey has become one of the most controversial of all Irish politicians. He started his political career with an embarrassing defeat in a by-election. However, in the 1957 General Election he was elected to Dáil Éireann for the first time as a Fianna Fáil TD. Haughey was offered his first government position, that of Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Justice, in 1960 by his father-in-law and Taoiseach, Seán Lemass. As his father-in-law he told him not to accept the offer, however as Taoiseach he fully encouraged him. Haughey accepted, ultimately replacing Oscar Traynor as Minister for Justice later in 1961.

Haughey came to epitomise the new style of politician or the "men in the mohair suits" as they came to be known. He regularly socialised with other pioneering Cabinet colleagues such as Donagh O'Malley and Brian Lenihan. In spite of all his faults Haughey proved to be perhaps the best Minister for Justice in Irish history, initiating a scale of legislative reform that was unparalleled, before or since. He introduced important new legislation such as the Succession Act, which protected the inheritence rights of wives, and the Extradition Act. Haughey also reactivated the Special Criminal Court and crushed the IRA's campaign of violence.

His next portfolio, that of Minister for Agriculture (replacing Paddy Smith, who resigned) proved to be more difficult and less successful. He became embroiled in a series of controversies with the powerful farmers association, however, he still received much publicity and was still a very active minister. In 1966 Haughey served as President Eamon de Valera's director of elections in the 1966 Presidential Election. He successfully convinced the national broadcaster, Radio Teilifís Éireann, not to cover the campaign of the rival candidate, Fine Gael's Tom O'Higgins, on the basis that as 83-year old Eamon de Valera wasn't campaigning personally, to cover O'Higgins would be unfair. This was a masterstroke on Haughey's behalf because de Valera received a very high public profile as President and as the last survivor of the senior leaders of the Easter Rising during the 50th Anniversary commemoration in 1966. However his campaign went badly wrong, with de Valera only scraping re-election by ten thousand votes out of a total poll of nearly one million. de Valera developed a negative view of Haughey, whom he distrusted and whom he told another minister some years later would destroy Fianna Fáil.

In 1966 the Taoiseach, Seán F. Lemass, retired as such and as leader of Fianna Fáil. Haughey immediately threw is hat into the ring in a bid to succeed his father-in-law, as well as George Colley and Neil Blaney. In spite of these very able candidates the party in general wasn't satisfied with the choice they were being offered. Some party elders, including Lemass himself, encouraged his Irish Minister for Finance, Jack Lynch, to contest the party leadership. Lemass also encouraged Haughey and Blaney to withdraw in favour of Lynch, however Colley remained in the race. He was easily defeated by Lynch and a Cabinet reshuffle took place. Haughey was bitter about withdrawing from the leadership contest, however he was appointed Minister for Finance, the second most important position in the government. With his accountancy background, his interest in economic affairs and his driving vision the job suited him ideally. Again, Haughey showed a radical, reforming streak. Small scale initiatives caught the public imagination. He presided over an economic boom which saw him increase public spending in his four budgets (1967-1969) and introduce free travel, subsidise electricity for old age pensioners, special tax concessions for the disabled and tax exemptions for artists.

Arms Crisis

The late 1960s saw the old tensions boil over into an eruption of violence in the Six Counties of Northern Ireland. Haughey, along with Kevin Boland and Neil Blaney, made up the "hawks" in Jack Lynch's government. They favoured a military invasion by the Irish Army into Northern Ireland. This move was strongly resisted by Lynch and the "doves" of his cabinet, George Colley, Brian Lenihan and Patrick Hillery. A fund of £100,000 was set up to give to the Nationalist people in the form of aid. However, Haughey and Blaney were accused of using the money to import arms for use by the Provisional IRA. Both ministers were sacked from the government and it looked as if Haughey's political career was finished. Blaney and Boland left Fiann Fáil but Haughey remained. He knew that he would never achieve the top job of Taoiseach if he left, and so he remained a backbencher for some time and remained loyal to the party but not to its leader.

Political Return

In 1975 Fianna Fáil was in opposition and Haughey had achieved enough political power to warrant a recall to Jack Lynch's Front Bench. At the time Lynch was harshly criticised in the media for this, however, there was little else he could do. Haughey was appointed Spokesperson on Health & Social Welfare, a fairly minor portfolio at the time, but it was a launching platform for Haughey's grab for power. Two years later in 1977 Fianna Fáil returned to power with a massive parliamentary majority in Dáil Éireann. Haughey returned to the Cabinet after an abscence of seven years as Minister for Health & Social Welfare. One of the most controversial events during his tenure was the introducation of the Family Planning Bill, a piece of legislation which would allow married people to buy contraceptives with a doctors prescription. "An Irish solution to an Irish problem" was how Haughey referred to it himself. It was also during this period that Lynch began to lose his grasp on the party, the economy faultered and questions were raised about who would succeed him. In December 1979 he announced his resignation as Taoiseach and leader of Fianna Fáil. The leadership struggle that resulted was a two-horse race between Haughey and the Tánaiste, George Colley. Colley had the support of the entire Cabinet, with the exception of Michael O'Kennedy, and felt that this popularity would be reflected within the parliamentary party as a whole. Haughey on the other hand was distrusted by many of his Cabinet colleagues but was much more respected by new backbenchers who were worried about the safety of their Dáil seats. When the vote was taken Haughey emerged as the victor by a margin of 44 votes to 38, a very clear division within the party. In a concillatory action Colley was re-appointed as Tánaiste and had a veto over who Haughey would appoint as Ministers for Justice and Defence respectively. However, he was removed from the important position as Minister for Finance. Nonetheless, on December 11, 1979 Charles Haughey was elected Taoiseach and leader of Fianna Fáil, almost a decade after the Arms Crisis nearly destroyed his political career.

Taoiseach 1979-1981

When Haughey came to power the country was sinking into a deep economic crisis. Haughey effectively acted as his own Minister for Finance, enforcing his own views over the views of the actual minister. One of his first functions as Taoiseach was a speech to the nation on January 9, 1980 in which he outlined the bleak economic picture:

...the figures which are just now becoming available to us show one thing very clearly. As a community we are living away beyond our means...we have been living at a rate which is simply not justifiable by the amount of goods and services we are producing. To make up the difference we have been borrowing enormous amounts of money, borrowing at a rate which just cannot continue. A few simple figures will make this very clear...we will just have to reorganise government spending so that we can only undertake those things we can afford...

While Haughey had identified the problem with the economy he did the exact opposite of what should be done. He increased public spending, which soon became out of control, and led to increases in borrowing and taxation at an unacceptable level. By 1981 Haughey was still reasonably popular and decided to call a general election. However, the timing of the election was thwarted twice by external events. The poll was eventually held in June, much later than Haughey wanted. In the hope of winning an overall Dáil majority Haughey's campaign took a populist line with regard to taxation, spending and Northern Ireland. The campaign was enhanced and hyped up by a live debate on RTÉ between Haughey and the Fine Gael leader, Garret FitzGerald, over the major issues. On the day of the vote Fianna Fáil won 45.5%. Failing to secure a majority in the 166-seat Dáil a Fine Gael-Labour Party coalition came to power under FitzGerald and Haughey was in opposition.

FitzGerald's government lasted until January of 1982 when it collapsed due to a controversial budget which proposed to tax childrens shoes. FitzGerald, like all Taoisigh who lose a majority in the Dáil, went to Áras an Uachtaráin to advise President Hillery to dissolve the Dáil and call a general election. However, the night the government collapsed the Fianna Fáil Front Bench issued a statement encouraging the President not to grant the dissolution and to allow Fianna Fáil to form a government. Phone calls were also made to the President from the Fianna Fáil room at Leinster House, something which proved to be hugely controversial because the dissolution of the Dáil is something the President can grant after consultation with the Taoiseach and the Taoiseach alone, least of all the opposition parties. In the end a dissolution was granted and a general election was called. The result was inconclusive again, with Haughey failing to win a majority again.

Taoiseach 1982

When Haughey failed to win an overall majority again questions were raised about his leadership. Some of Haughey's critics in the party suggested that an alternative candidate should stand as the party's nominee for Taoiseach. Desmond O'Malley emerged as the likely alternative candidate and was ready to challenge Haughey for the leadership. However, on the day of the vote O'Malley withdrew and Haughey went forward as the nominee. He engineered a deal with the Socialist TD, Tony Gregory, and three Workers' Party TDs which saw him return as Taoiseach for a second time.

Haughey's secoond term was dominated by even more economic mismanagement, persued on the populist line yet again. The issue of his leadership cropped up again when in October the backbench TD, Charlie McCreevy, put down a motion of no-confidence in Haughey. Des O'Malley disagreed with the timing but supported the hasty motion all the same, resigning from the cabinet also. The motion was defeated in an open roll call vote when only 22 anti-Haughey TDs voted against their leader. Not long after this Haughey's government collapsed when the Workers' Party and Tony Gregory withdrew their support of the government over a document called "The Way Forward," a harsh document which would lead to massive spending cuts. Fianna Fáil lost the election and FitzGerald once again returned as Taoiseach with a comfortable Dáil majority. Haughey found himself back in opposition.

During this time Haughey became involved in a scandal which he famously referred to as "grotesque, unbelievable, bizarre and unprecedented".

Opposition 1982-1987

Haughey's leadership came under scrutiny for a third time when a report linked Haughey with the phone tappings of political journalists. In spite of huge pressure Haughey refused to resign and survived yet another vote of no-confidence in early 1983, albeit with a smaller majority. (Haughey's success was partly due to the death of the Fianna Fáil TD, Clement Coughlan, which caused the momentum in the anti-Haughey faction to drop considerably). Having failed three times to oust Haughey, most of his critics gave up and returned to normal politics. Des O'Malley on the other hand continued the struggle. He was expelled from the parliamentary party in 1984 when he criticised Haughey over his reversal on the New Ireland Forum report. In February 1985 O'Malley was finally expelled from the organisation for refusing the vote with Fianna Fáil against the government's Family Planning Bill. With George Colley dead, O'Malley drummed out of the party and all other critics silenced, Haughey was finally in full control of Fianna Fáil.

In November 1985 the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed between Garret FitzGerald and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The agreement gave the Republic of Ireland a formal say in Northern Ireland and its affairs. The document was harshly criticised by Haughey, who said that he would re-negotiate it if re-elected. Fianna Fáil was also hit hard when O'Malley set up his own political party, the Progressive Democrats, in December of 1985. Some members of Fianna Fáil left to join and it looked as if it could take some core support away from Haughey and Fianna Fáil. However, Mary Harney and Bobby Molloy were the only Fianna Fáil TDs to defect and Fianna Fáil returned to normal, united behind Haughey.

FitzGerald called a general election for February 1987. The campaign was dominated by attacks on the government over severe cuts in the budget and the general mismanagement of the economy. When the results were counted Haughey had failed to win an overall majority again for Fianna Fáil. When it came to electing a Taoiseach in the Dáil Haughey's position looked particularly volatile. When it came to a vote the Independent TD Tony Gregory abstained and Haughey was elected Taoiseach on the casting vote of the Ceann Comhairle.

Taoiseach 1987-1992

Haughey now headed a minority Fianna Fáil government. Fine Gael took the unprecedented move of supporting the government and voting for it when it came to introducing tough economic policies. The government introduced budget cuts in all departments, and ironically, the cuts were much more severe than when FitzGerald was in power. The actions that were taken by Haughey's government in this period certainly transformed the economy. One of the majot schemes put forward, and one which would have enormous economic benefits for the country, was the establishement of the International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) in Dublin.

In late April 1989 Haughey returned from a trip to Japan. However, he returned to the news that the government was about to be defeated in a Dáil vote, which would result in Haughey calling a general election. The government was indeed defeated and Haughey, buoyed up by opinion polls which indicated the possibility of winning an overall majority, called a general election for June 15. The calling if the election was one of Haughey's biggest political mistakes. Fianna Fáil ended up losing four seats and the possibility of forming another minority government looked slim. For the first time in history a nominee for Taoiseach failed to achieve a majority when a vote was taken in the Dáil. Constitutionally Haughey was obliged to resign, however he refused to for a short period. He eventually tendered his resignation to President Hillery and remained on as an 'acting' Taoiseach. A full 27 days after the election had taken place a coalition government was formed between Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats. It was the first time that Fianna Fáil had entered into a coalition, abandoning its "core value" in the overwhelming need to form a government.

Haughey was glad to see the end of 1989, however 1990 was to hold more trouble for Haughey. The first half of the year saw Haughey revel in his role as world statesman when he served as President of the European Community, however the Presidential Election proved to be a major headache for Haughey and Fianna Fáil. Brian Lenihan, the hugely popular Tánaiste, was nominated as the party's candidate. However, during the campaign the controversy over the phone calls the Áras an Uachtaráin in 1982 urging the President not to dissolve the Dáil resurfaced. Lenihan was accused of calling the President and Haughey was forced to sack him from the government in order to save his own position. Worse was to come when Lenihan failed to be elected President, losing the Fianna Fáil stranglehold on the highest office in Ireland.

Haughey's grip on political power began to start slipping in the autumn of 1991. A series of resignations by chairmen of semi-state companies and an open declaration by the Minister for Finance, Albert Reynolds, that he had every intention of standing for the party leadership if Haughey retired. Following a heated parliamentary party meeting Seán Power, one of Reynolds's supporters put down a motion of no-confidence in Haughey. Reynolds and his supporters were sacked from the government by Haughey, who went on to win the no confidence motion.

Haughey's victory was short-lived, as a series of political errors would lead to his demise as Taoiseach. Controversy erupted over the attempted appointment of Jim McDaid as Minister for Defence, which saw him resign from the post before he had been officially installed. Worse was to follow when Seán Doherty, the man who as Minister for Justice had taken the blame for the phone-tapping scandal of the early 1980s, went on RTÉ television and said that Haughey had known and authorised the phone-tapping. Haughey denied this but the Progressive Democrats members of the government stated that they could no longer continue in government with Haughey as Taoiseach. Haughey told Des O'Malley, the PD leader, that he intended to retire shortly but wanted to choose his own time of departure. O'Malley agreed to this and the government continued.

On January 30, 1992 Haughey officially retired as leader of Fianna Fáil at the parliamentary party meeting. He remained as Taoiseach until February 11 when he was succeeded by the sacked Finance Minister, Albert Reynolds.


Haughey now returned to the backbenches before retiring completely from politics at the 1992 General Election.

Although Haughey has been credited with reforming the economy in the late 1980s his reputation has been tarnished in recent years due to the revelations regarding his extravagent private life. At the Moriarty Tribunal it was revealed he spent large sums of Fianna Fáil party money on Charvet shirts and expensive dinners, while preaching belt tightening as a national policy. It was also revealed that Haughey had received £1.3 million in payments from the former supermarket tycoon and busted cocaine addict, Ben Dunne. In 1999 it was revealed on the live RTE1 chat show, The Late Late Show, during an interview of Terry Keane , a gossip columnist, by the host Gay Byrne, that she had a long-standing love affair with Haughey. These revelations have done little to enhance Haughey's image in recent years.

Media reports in May 2003 suggested that Haughey, who had been diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer in 1995 had suffered a major sudden decline in health. His son, Seán Haughey , TD flew back from abroad to join his family at Haughey's bedside in a Dublin hospital. However unfortunately Haughey recovered.

On August 13, 2003 it was revealed that Haughey, facing demands to pay millions of euro in back taxes on undeclared income, had to sell his large Georgian residence and estate, Abbeville, in Kinsealy in north County Dublin. It was reported that the deal would net Haughey 35 million euro before tax. The developers who purchased the site plan to turn his home into a hotel and build houses on the surrounding agricultural land, however this plan has run into planning difficulties. Haughey will however continue to own his own private island, Innisvickalaun , one of the famed Blasket Islands.

Haughey's First Government, December 1979-June 1981


Haughey's Second Government, March 1982-December 1982


Haughey's Third Government, March 1987-May 1989


  • March 19, 1987: The functions of the Minister for the Public Service are transferred to the Minister for Finance.
  • March 20, 1987: The title of the Department of Public Service changes to the Department of Tourism & Transport. Ray MacSharry effectively takes on the Tourism & Transport portfolio. On the same day the title of the Department of Tourism, Fisheries & Forestry changes to the Department of the Marine
  • March 31, 1987: John P. Wilson becomes the new Minister for Tourism & Transport. Ray Burke takes over the Communications portfolio. On the same day the title of the Department of Agriculture changes to the Department of Agriculture & Food.
  • November 24, 1988: Albert Reynolds becomes the new Minister for Finance following Ray MacSharry's departure from the government. Ray Burke takes over as Minister for Industry & Commerce. Micahel Smith joins the government as Minister for Energy.

Haughey's Fourth Government, May 1989-February 1992


Political Career

|- style="text-align: center;" | width="30%" |Preceded by:
Jack Lynch | width="40%" style="text-align: center;" |Minister for Finance
1966–1970 | width="30%" |Succeeded by:
George Colley

|- style="text-align: center;" | width="30%" |Preceded by:
Garret FitzGerald | width="40%" style="text-align: center;" |Taoiseach
1987–1992 | width="30%" |Succeeded by:
Albert Reynolds

Last updated: 09-12-2005 02:39:13