a Northern unionist perspective, it has been interesting
to follow reaction in the Republic to the death
of Charles Haughey.
over the past week or so, has the sharp division
of opinion that he provoked been better illustrated
than in the regular columns and special features
of this newspaper.
notable have been contributions from those who,
despite widely differing views on Haughey's legacy,
seem united on one point at least: a determination
that the British be dragged into the fray.
one side, there is a belief that his financial and
other indiscretions can be excused and his achievements
only fully appreciated, by measuring them against
the other, is a firm conviction that ultimate blame
for all Haughey's faults should be laid squarely
at the door of British colonialism in Ireland.
Mansergh was first with the British comparison when,
in an article on Haughey (16th June), he said Winston
Churchill had also accepted money from well-wishers
but no one had ever accused him of being corrupt.
the debatable notion that Charles Haughey was in
any way comparable as person, politician or statesman
to Churchill, it seems strange that a senior member
of Fianna Fáil should feel the need to measure
for efficacy a former taoiseach's behaviour against
that of a former British prime minister.
did the comparisons end there.
at least seven other occasions in the article, Senator
Mansergh referred in Haughey's favour to British
prime ministers, British industrial legislation,
Britain's withdrawal from Zimbabwe and its involvement
in the Falklands war. A fascination with all things
British that would suggest there is such a thing
as excessive colonial preoccupation.
the other side of the argument, Eddie Holt (June
17th) made clear his disgust at the flaunting by
Haughey of his opulence.
could not resist, however, shifting the blame for
this on to the British.
Holt's view, the Haughey lifestyle - with all of
the "mansion-living, island-owning, horse-riding,
duck-shooting, yachting, hunting, arts-patronage,
pricey meals and pricey clothes" - was, at
least in part, him trying to ape "the boss
class of our former coloniser".
posing for photographs on horseback and at duck-shoots
was reminiscent of an "ageing Anglo-Irish buck".
Haughey's bowler hat fell foul of Eddie's ire, as
those particular pieces of headgear are "English
icons, worn by parading Orangemen in the North".
me those dreadful photos of Haughey posing on horseback,
or with newly slain ducks, were reminiscent of another
short, extremely vain man, Benito Mussolini.
somewhere between the positions of Eddie Holt and
Martin Mansergh, was John Waters' column last Monday.
Mansergh, he admires Haughey, though for very different
too alluded to Haughey's aping of "elites",
as well as the debilitating effect on Irish society
of "radical interference by outsiders"
and "post-colonialism". Unlike Holt, he
reckons those, and much more about Haughey, were
all admirable traits when considered in the proper
context of a post-colonial Ireland.
declared: "The enemies were right, too, when
they called him a thief. He stole Ireland back from
the elite . . . "
position, I think, is that Haughey taught the Irish
people how to get over having been oppressed by
the British and restored their collective pride,
by giving them his over-indulgent, corrupt, self
somewhat novel idea that, no doubt, has been noted
as a possible line of defence by any Irish person
concerned they might be charged at some time in
the future with misappropriating public funds.
is something rather juvenile and pathetic in this
invoking of the long-gone British presence in Ireland
as an excuse for everything that ails.
the Waters' piece, even the Famine is mentioned
in a long list of past wrongs that somehow contributed
to Haughey's excesses.
the Ireland of 2006, that's a bit like an 84-year-old
standing in the dock citing his grandparents' deprived
childhood as reason for his own bad behaviour.
are talking here, remember, about one of the most
prosperous countries in the world.
some, just how good does it have to get in the Republic
before they move into post post-colonial mode? As
for Haughey himself, he was not the flawed genius
that a few claim him to be. He wasn't any type of
genius at all, just deeply flawed. Neither did Britain,
or even Ireland, play any unique role in shaping
the defective character of the opportunist, self-centred,
complete pragmatist that was Charles Haughey. He
could have happened anywhere, and frequently does.
Republic prospered and modernised in spite of him
and his type: he will command a mere footnote in
Irish history. Indeed, for the young people of Ireland,
he already does.