Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Haughey - Hee-Haw

All praise to RTE for their riveting documentary of Charles Haughey. While it's far from hagiography, it does seem slightly in love with its protagonist. I always found Haughey a rather ridiculous self-important little man; combining pomposity with banality. The hilarious aping of the gentry; his studied aloofness; his Renaissance man posturings around art and music.

You can't deny he had the will to power. Much of this may stem from his deprived background where he had to fight hard for any advantage; a scholarship boy in secondary school and at university. History may judge that that having gained power, he didn't have much idea what to do with it. A lot of the initiatives he is associated are gimmicky and populist: free fares for the old and no taxes for the artists. His one considerable piece of legislation was a modernising of the laws of succession.

His most shamefeul actions were the cynical use of moral issues to win electoral favour. This was particularly true of his public attitude to abortion and contraception. His private behaviour suggested a much more liberal approach to morality. But of course the Irish press were far too craven to point this out. Private Eye was the only publication to out him and his strident bint Terry Keane.

The programme also showed how he split the party down the middle - all decency on the other side (Colley, O'Donoghue, Brennan, Faulkner, Lynch, Hillary etc.) - while he enjoyed the support of the chancers and backwoodsmen (Davern, Flynn, Gene Fitzgerald etc.). It was extraordinary how bitter O'Donoghue (particularly) and Brennan still are. Lynch of course made a huge mistake bringing him back to the cabinet; giving him a platform from which to undermine him. He mistakenly assumed that Colley was a shoo-in to succeed him.

And we had a surfeit of the oily PR goon O'Mara giving us the benefit of his attenuated world-view - where schoolboy victories are all that matter.