Former Taoiseach Charles Haughey was ruled by his emotions, state papers reveal

Former Taoiseach Charles Haughey was ruled by his emotions and had no real strategy in regard to Anglo-Irish relations, state papers reveal. Pictur ebt PA
Eamon Phoenix

FORMER Taoiseach Charles Haughey was ruled by his emotions and had no real strategy in regard to Anglo-Irish relations, state papers reveal.

A senior NIO official in 1988 described how he believed Mr Haughey was guided by "a set of vague, deep-green principles" and regarded Northern Ireland as "a failed political entity".

The documents also reveal he both admired and feared the British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.

The reactions of Mr Haughey had "a large emotional content", with the NIO documents also revealing he had shut himself off from advice of his own Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

In a memo to officials, dated May 20 1988, senior NIO official Alan Whysall said he saw clear parallels between the Taoiseach's policies in 1982 and in 1988.

He informed colleagues: "In 1982 Mr Haughey took control of policy and shut himself off from DFA advice. So it has been this time".

The British Ambassador in Dublin had reported to London that "the DFA did not know what Mr Haughey might say in the USA two days before he spoke (in April 1988)".

Similarly, they had little idea what direction he might take towards the planned review of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. The official felt "the internal workings of the Department of the Taoiseach were difficult to fathom".

"One might infer", he suggested that, "Mr Haughey looks to Martin Mansergh - described as "the malign influence" in a despatch from the British Embassy - (for advice) instead of the DFA".

"However, while Haughey might use Dr Mansergh as a 'sounding-board' ... it is difficult to believe that he trusts anybody completely and the strange course that his policies sometimes follow suggests that, not only is he not working out a careful strategy, but also no-one is doing it for him."

The NIO official told his colleagues: "Many of Mr Haughey's reactions seem to have a large emotional element, they are not just calculating.

"He appears to cherish a set of vague, deep green principles, centred around the need for a unitary Irish state, the failure of Northern Ireland as a political entity and so forth."

The documents also described how there was no evidence that the Taoiseach had "a carefully worked-out strategy" for the achievement of his fundamental objectives.

In Whysall's view, however, "the person who potentially has by far the most influence with Mr Haughey…is the Prime Minister (Margaret Thatcher).

"He clearly admires and also fears her," he said.

He also wrote that he believed their relationship would improve "if he (Haughey) thought she was listening and at least trying to understand Ireland and the problems he faced".

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